Abraham Lincoln's pension for word play and humorous quips is substantiated in this delightful collection published by Frederick Farrah, 282, Strand, London in 1865.
ABE LINCOLN, THE GREAT AMERICAN JESTER.
Lincoln and Meagher.
On Lincoln’s receiving a dispatch from Meagher, the Irish General, stating that he had succeeded in capturing an entire division of the seceders, the president remarked that “it was good news, if true; but he suspected it was Meagher (mere) humbug!”
When Seaward proposed that fighting Joe Hooker should have the command of an entire brigade, Lincoln expressed an approval upon the ground that they “must win by Hook-er by Crook” (hook or by crook).
Upon being interrogated why Americans used so much tobacco, Abe replied “because they chews” (choose).
When the president heard of the capture of Slidell and Mason on board the Trent, he foresaw that it would be likely to breed a rupture with England, but dismissed the consideration of it by saying that “should the commander’s foolish conduct place him in difficulties, he would not fail to give Wilks a hoister (an oyster).” On another occasion in alluding to the same personage and affair, he remarked that “it would serve Wilks right if he lost his place” (plaice).
A proper Cognomen.
When Captain Frye, the son of Canon Frye, was, for his distinguished bravery at the Battle of Bull’s Run, jokingly alluded to by Sumner as a son of a gun. Old Abe remarked that “he could with far greater propriety call him a son of a Canon” (cannon).
A Princely Pun.
Upon hearing that our Prince, Alfred, had declined to become King of the Greeks, Abraham remarked that “the reason he did not mount the throne of Greece was because he preferred his own native isle” (oil).
A Severe Retort.
General Grant once applied for permission to be employed in a special service on the ground that he commanded none but tried men. “Yes,” replied the president, “I admit the truthfulness of your plea, for if they have not been tried in the field they have been tried elsewhere!”
“Come, Chase,” said Lincoln, on one occasion while sitting tete-a-tete with the great American financier, “I will give you a conundrum: Why is a man who deals in stale jokes like a stock-jobber?” After sundry ineffectual attempts upon the part of his friend to find an answer, the presidential joker gave the following for a reply: “Because he deals in fun dead (funded) property.”
A Grumbler Answered.
A certain well-known American grumbler once appeared before the president to obtain the dismissal of General Grant upon the ground of drunkenness. “Why,” exclaimed the faultfinder, “he, on one occasion, drank twelve bottles of wine at a sitting.” “That,” said Lincoln, “is more than I can swallow.”
A very loquacious personage once applied for a government situation upon the ground that he had no other mode of obtaining a living, having tried several shops and failed at each! “I cannot grant your request,” was the president’s reply, “but I would suggest that you tried a tongue shop.”
A Slashing Inuendo.
When President Lincoln visited the army of the Potomac, a captain with a face cut and slashed in all directions, complained of the great want of ambulances and the consequent sufferings of the wounded. “I will do my best,” replied Abe, “to supply the deficiency,” and then, turning to another, he remarked that “the captain had no right to complain of the number of his (s) cars.”
Abe Lincoln, who is by no means a bad judge of paintings, was shewn a picture done by a very indifferent hand, and asked to give an opinion of it. “Why,” said the president, the “painter is a very good painter, and observes the Lord’s commandments.” “What do you mean by that, Mr. Lincoln?” said a well-known member of the senate, who was standing by. “Why, I think,” answered Abraham, “that he hath not made to himself the likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
A Poultry (paltry) War.
A crony of Abe’s—a man named Payne, was appointed a general at Illinois; in reference to his election the following is recorded, which the president tells with great gusto: One day a wealthy old lady, whose plantation was in the vicinity of the camp, came in and inquired for General Payne. When the commander made his appearance, the old lady in warm language told him that his men had stolen her last coop of chickens, and demanded its restoration or its value in money. “I am sorry for you, madam,” replied the general, “but I can’t help it. The fact is, Madam, we are determined to squelch out the rebellion, if it cost every d——d chicken in Tennessee.”
Lincoln on Physic.
Lincoln once said of an apothecary, that his employment was to pour drugs, of which he knew little, into a body of which he knew less.
When General Peck attempted to take Blackwater, in Virginia, fear was expressed, that from his known sternness, he would compromise the honour of the Federal cause by giving the place up to pillage. “No fear,” said Lincoln, “it takes more pecks than one to make a sack.”
How to make Foes.
“When I give away a place,” said Lincoln, to a person who was continually importuning him, “I discover that I always make a hundred foes to one friend.”
“Constant practice as a rail-splitter,” said Lincoln “gave me a thorough knowledge of the various grain found in wood, but I never thought ebony would be so tough to work upon, as I have found it to be since I took to dealing with these d—d niggers.”
The only alternative.
“How shall we get cotton” said a northern manufacturer to the president. “Well, I suppose you must just wait till the southerners get worsted,” was Abe’s reply.
A celebrated American Explorer, while chatting with the president, said that in his late attempt to discover the remains of the unfortunate Sir John Franklin and his crew, he passed through Davis’-straits. “Did you, by God,” said Abe, “then, I should think you are the only person on earth who could pass through mine.”
Misnomers. “What are you?” said Lincoln, to a man dressed in fustian, who rudely accosted him in the streets of Washington. “I am a civil engineer” was the reply. “Then,” said the president, “you are like the war now raging, sadly mis-named, for there is nothing civil about you.”
Deficiency of Fuel.
A ship was lately dispatched by Welles to endeavour to capture the celebrated Southern cruiser, yclept the Alabama. After the ship had been absent a short time it was discovered that the supply of coals was deficient. The coals had been supplied by a celebrated New York dealer in that commodity named Heaven. Upon the matter being mentioned to Lincoln, he replied, “Well, he ought to have telegraphed to Heaven for more coals.”
A Queer Compliment.
When Lincoln sent Admiral —— to enforce the blockade at Charlestown and Wellington, he said “there was no chance of failure, as the person sent carried with him a blockhead that nothing could penetrate.”
A slight addition.
A New York lawyer was desirous of being appointed as a judge. “There are only ten,” he exclaimed, “to transact the whole of the state’s affairs.” “And so you want to increase them to one hundred,” said Lincoln. “How so,” said the applicant. “Why, by adding a cipher to them.”
Preaching out West.
Lincoln is very fond of repeating the following: “I knew an old preacher, out west, who, on a very cold day, when describing hell, said ‘it was an awful place and that the cold was unbearable.’ One of his congregation, at the close of the sermon, took upon himself to ask the preacher why he had described hell as being cold, when all eminent divines said it was the very reverse. ‘Oh, sir,’ said the preacher, ‘I had good reason, for if I had preached the reverse, I should have had them running away to warm themselves.’”
“I understand, General,” said Lincoln, addressing the celebrated dwarf, Tom Thumb, “that you are about to have the first instalment of a family.” “Yes,” was the general’s reply. “Well,” said the president, “I trust it will be a boy.” “Why,” interrogated the dwarf. “Because I should like your infant to increase my infantry.”
How a Black’s Made.
“I tell you,” said Seward to Lincoln, one day, “Everything you proclaim is quite right, But to arm the poor nigger is not quite the thing, For two blacks never yet made a white.” “You are wrong, they are equal, no matter their hue, And I’ll prove that in judgment you lack: Only give me your help, and united I’ll prove, That two whites can at least make a black.” “My service you claim, and freely ’tis given; Now, the truth of your promise let’s see.” He wrote, “manumission,” then cried, “It is done: For a black’s never made till he’s free!” Abe’s First Joke.
Abe Lincoln, when a boy, had an uncle who kept a mill down west. Noticing that the mill was going very slow, the young joker, on meeting the miller, said, he could eat the meal faster than the mill ground it. “How long could you do so?” said his uncle, struck by the boy’s remark. “Why, ’till I starved to death,” replied the young incorrigible.
A Wonderful Child.
“American babies,” said Lincoln, during the time of the celebrated baby show, “lick all babies. I have seen one in Massachusetts, only six months old, sitting in its mother’s lap, viewing its own cradle, to see if it could not invent a better, or, at least, suggest some improvement.”
How to stop thieves.
“Friend Lincoln,” said a celebrated Western farmer, one day, to the president, “thee knows almost everything; can thee tell me how I am to preserve my small beer in the back yard? My neighbours are often tapping it of nights.”—“Put a barrel of old Madeira by the side of it, let the rogues but get a taste of that, and I warrant they’ll never touch your small beer any more.”
Hopping the twig.
“It is no use, president; wherever I go,” said an officer appointed to enforce the draft, “I find the houses shut up, and the bird flown.” “I see,” said the president, “they are afraid of the draft.”
The best saddles.
There was a dispute at Washington about which were the best saddles for the Federal Cavalry. Lincoln said “the best saddles were decidedly saddles of mutton.”
An offer rejected.
When Blondin was performing his daring feats at Niagara, he asked Lincoln “if he would mind trusting himself on his back.” The answer was somewhat prophetic, and as follows: “I shall not trust your rope!” (Europe).
A decided smasher.
“That paper must be rigorously dealt with,” said Welles. “I have already,” said Lincoln “contrived to divide America, and you now want me to smash the Globe!”
When is was reported that General Blunt had let the rebel cavalry escape. The President remarked to the Chief of the War Department, that “the appointment of such a man was a piece of folly, for how could it be expected that Blunt could be Sharp.”
A curious addition.
“Is it not curious, General,” said Abe to McClellan, “that whenever a piece of field artillery is fired, that the number of animals attending it is increased?” “How so?” said the famous Northern General. “Why,” said Lincoln, “it then has not only its four horses in front, but it has also its moke behind.”
The Cost of War.
“Your fighting, General,” said Lincoln, to a general who had returned disabled, “has been an expensive affair to you.” “How so” “Why,” said the president, “it has cost you a leg I see” (legacy.)
In memory of.
To commemorate the battle of Bull’s run, the Yankees are about to build an hotel there. On hearing of this, Lincoln remarked that “there was a hot hell there before.”
A Crocodile’s age.
Abe Lincoln prides himself on being the first to make known the means of ascertaining the age of crocodiles. He says that a negro acquainted him with the fact that a sort of bag is placed in the intestines of the crocodiles, which always contains a number of stones corresponding with the years of its life, it being the custom of these animals to swallow a stone on their birthday.
Abe, at one of his morning levees, had a visitor who introduced himself as one of the President’s best friends, and soliciting a government post then vacant as the gift of Abe, urged his claim for the appointment upon the ground that it was solely through the applicant’s exertions Mr. Lincoln was elected president. “Oh, indeed;” said Abe, “I now look upon the man, who of all men, has crowned my existence with a crown of thorns—no post for you in my gift, I assure you; I wish you good morning.”
When the Merrimac was about to be christened. The president remarked, “that it was a somewhat strange title as the ship was built, to make mourning rather than make merry.”
A Husband’s Wit.
Mrs. L— was, one day, engaged in making an apple pie, and in the operation contrived to besmear her face with the batter. The president observing the same, asked her “the loan of her batter eye” (battery).
The cause discovered.
When the Federals flew before the Southerners at Bull’s run. Lincoln remarked that “it resulted from the army having too many wings.”
Lincoln, upon hearing that an old friend of his had gone to Utah, said “he supposed he had gone to spend his latter days among the Mormon knights.”
A satisfactory conclusion.
When Lincoln read the account of Bull’s run, wherein it said that the Northern army was knocked into a cocked hat. Lincoln drily remarked that “he supposed it had been caught napping.”
A mother’s alarm.
A lady was lamenting to the president that her only son had gone to the war, and asked him what she had better do. “Oh,” he replied, “you can’t do better than buy him a life preserver.”
Governor Seymour telegraphed to Lincoln during the late riots in New York City, that there was no occasion to act so harshly and drag so many citizens off to prison. The reply was that “he (the president) thought quite differently, and that he should never be content till he’d see more (Seymour) there.”
“There you are,” said Mrs. Lincoln one day to her husband—at your idol again—alluding to his well-known love of tobacco. “Yes, my dear,” was his reply, “I am burning it.”
A Word for the Irish.
A lieutenant told the president that of all the men that composed his regiment, the Irish gave him the greatest amount of uneasiness. “Sir,” was Lincoln’s reply, “our enemies, the rebels, make the same complaint.”
Skill of a Young Officer.
McClellan was once speaking to the President of a promising young officer who was slain at the cattle of Bull’s run. “Oh,” said the American Chief, “if there was doubt about his being skilled while living, no one doubts but that he’s (s) killed now.”
A foot in it.
When Admiral Foote was appointed to command the South Atlantic squadron, he bade Welles to see that the Admiral’s ship was quite sea-worthy. “How is it you are so particular,” said the Naval Chief. “Why,” said Lincoln, with a chuckle, “have I not placed my Foot in it.”
Lincoln to Ewell,
On his not forcing Hill to cross the Potomac.
“Dear Ewell,” wrote Lincoln, one day in a pet, “Your tactics have ended in loss; You have let Hill escape, I will venture to bet, It’s myself and not him you made cross. Why were you so blinded by Hill’s little ruse? It is shameful—nay, more; it is cruel; Your failures, disasters, really give one the blues, And I wish I could only make you Hill” (you ill). Shakspearian Query.
Abraham is known to be very fond of Shakspeare, yet at times, to indulge in a joke, even at the expense of his favourite. A short time since, he wrote as follows to a popular actor, with whom he is known to be on intimate terms:—
“In Hamlet, Act II., Scene 2, is this:—
“‘King. He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found the head and source of all your son’s distemper.’
“‘Queen. I doubt it is no other but the main.’
“Tell me, does her Majesty imply that Hamlet suffered from sea-sickness?”
The reply was that the actor believed that it was not the main cause.
On hearing that an American composer was engaged in writing a national hymn——, the President hinted that “He hoped that it would not have too many runs in it.”
“The Americans,” said Chase, “at the present crisis, must not be extravagant—they must live under their incomes.” “How can they do that,” said the President, “when there is no alternative but their living on them.”
The President narrates the following story:—“While passing along the streets of New York, one day, I met a Jack Tar. ‘What ship,’ I enquired, ‘do you belong to?’ ‘What odds is that to you,’ was the reply. ‘Do you know who I am,’ I exclaimed. ‘No.’ ‘Why, I am the President.’ Then, said Jack, ‘You have a damned good berth of it!’”
The House of Congress.
“That house,” said Abe, “is a swan house—all white and fair outside, but only think of the black-legs that are working out of sight.”
[This, if ever said by the President, is an adaptation from Douglas Jerrold.]
Abe Lincoln’s opinion of a man’s strength.
Upon the receipt of the news that —— had carried Fort Nagher—the President drily remarked that “He must be a very strong man!”
The Fall of Pride.
An enthusiastic Englishman once said to the President, that the Niagara river was the pride of rivers. “Yes,” was the reply, “but that pride has a tremendous fall.”
The Captain’s Reply. “We’re short of prog, said Captain B——, When going on a trip; And as we’ve little got to eat, We’ll dine off the ship. Fear not, but keep your powder dry, And place faith in the Lord; You’ve naught to fear, for seamen cooks Can always cook a-board. The captain quickly did reply, While standing by the wheel, ’Tis little, Abe’rm, that we have— How can we cook a deal.” A Strange Similarity.
“Why is the Northern army,” asked the President, “like the post-office at Washington?” “Because it is made up of columns, wings, and squares, and, judging from the past, it is also doomed.”
“There is no nonsense about these sardines,” said Mrs. Lincoln, “they are genuine, and came from the Mediterranean.” “Yes,” said Lincoln, “and if you leave them to themselves they will go a great deal farther.”
Where Punch got his Cartoon from.
When Lincoln sent contributions to the Northern army, he wrote to General —— as follows:—“Dear Sir,—Knowing that the army under your charge requires purging, I herewith send you a black draft.”—Yours, Lincoln.
Pun upon Pun.
The facetious president thus wrote to a friend in Scotland:—
“As however, I am somewhat partial to female authors (Scotch or otherwise), don’t forget to remember me to all the blue belles of Scotland, and to as many primroses as you can find. The remembrance may produce a little heart’s ease, and cause their two-lips to bless you.”
Lincoln at the Play.
I had the pleasure on Monday night of seeing “Macbeth” rendered upon the stage of Messrs. Wallack and Devonport, and also of seeing Mr. Lincoln present at the same time. It is Mr. Lincoln’s favourite play, and one could not repress a certain curiosity to know (though he is familiar with them as he is with stump speaking, doubtless) how certain passages would strike him. When the following passage between Malcolm and Macduff was pronounced the audience was suddenly silent as the grave:—
Mal.—Let me seek out some desolate shade, and there weep our bosoms empty. Macd. Let us rather Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men Bestride our downfall’n birthdom. Each new morn New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows Strike on the face of heaven, that it resounds As if it felt with Scotland and yelled out Like syllable of dolour.
Mr. Lincoln leaned back in his chair in the shade after this sentence was pronounced, and for a long time wore a sad, sober face, as if suddenly his thoughts had wandered from the playroom far away to where his great armies contest with the rebellious of a vast empire.
A Ludicrous Mistake.
“Who has been guilty of these crimes,” said Lincoln, alluding to those committed by New York electioneering agents, “Donohue,” was the reply. “Then learn out as speedily as possible.”
A Southern Estimate.
When informed that General Stoughton had been captured by the rebels at Fairfax, the President is reported to have said that he did not mind the loss of the Brigadier as much as he did the loss of the horses. “For,” said he, “I can make a much better Brigadier in five minutes, but the horses cost a hundred and twenty-five dollars a-piece.”
“Well,” said the President, after the last repulse before Richmond, “them blessed ‘babies’ do fight, and the old chaps lifted from their graves are at any rate from the right mould; the babies are like young puppies that can stand a deal of licking, and the old boys are too old to run!”
How to Fight.
“Those Southerners fight! its all blarney,” said Abe; “Put your swords in your sheath, boys, and lick Hills; “But a man without a sword is at fighting a babe “Then, damn-me, said Abe, use your Sickles!”
A Majority Wanted.
When it was reported to Abe Lincoln that the men engaged in the coal pits had refused to fight the old joker said, “He didn’t expect miners (minors) to fight;” “but stay,” said Lincoln, “is there no way of making Majors of these minors?”
A Story concerning a Second Term.
It is said that, some time ago, a gentleman hinted to the President that it was deemed quite settled that he would accept a re-nomination for his present office, whereupon Mr. Lincoln was reminded of a story of Jesse Dubois, out in Illinois. Jesse as State Auditor, had charge of the State House at Springfield. An itinerant preacher came along and asked the use of it for a lecture.
“On what subject?” asked Jesse.
“On the second coming of our Saviour,” answered the long-faced Millerite.
“Oh, bosh,” retorted Uncle Jesse, testily; “I guess if our Saviour had ever been to Springfield, and had got away with his life, he’d be too smart to think of coming back again.”
This, Mr. Lincoln said, was very much his case about the succession.
Estimate of Official Honours.
As a further elucidation of Mr. Lincoln’s estimation of Presidential honours, a story is told of how a supplicant for office of more than ordinary pretensions called upon him, and, presuming on the activity he had shown in behalf of the Republican ticket, asserted, as a reason why the office should be given to him, that he had made Mr. Lincoln president.
“You made me President, did you?” said Mr. Lincoln, with a twinkle of his eye.
“I think I did,” said the applicant.
“Then a precious mess you’ve got me into, that’s all,” replied the President, and closed the discussion.
“When do you think this war will be ended, Mr. Lincoln?” said an impatient citizen. “Why, when we have whipped the slaveowners.” “Then I’m thinking,” replied the citizen, “that you will never live to see its close. I have already seen its clothes, and they are the most blood-stained and bespattered lot I ever saw. But I trow, sir, war is sure to spoil the habits of a people, especially when they go to sleep in breeches.”
When it was told to Lincoln that a division of Burnside’s had been entrapped into a cul de sac, Lincoln said he’d cull the sack for his stupidity.
A Liberal Giver.
Mr. Lincoln, in his happier moments, is not always reminded of a “little story,” but often indulges in a veritable joke. One of the latest reported is his remark when he found himself attacked by the varioloid; he had been recently very much worried by people asking favours. “Well,” said he, when the contagious disease was coming upon him, “I’ve got something now that I can give to everybody.” About the time when there was considerable grumbling as to the delay in forwarding to the troops the money due to them, a western paymaster, in full major’s attire, was one day introduced at a public reception. “Being here, Mr. Lincoln,” said he, “I thought I’d call and pay my respects.” “From the complaints of the soldiers,” responded the President, “I guess that’s about all any of you can pay.”
Coffee versus Tea.
It is told by a Federal correspondent, who is probably “reliable,” that Mr. Lincoln was walking up Pennsylvania Avenue the other day, relating “a little story” to Secretary Seward, when the latter called his attention to a new sign bearing the name of “T. R. Strong.” “Ha!” says old Abe, his countenance lighting up with a peculiar smile, “T. R. Strong, but coffee are stronger.” Seward smiled, but made no reply. [We don’t see how he could reply after so atrocious a thing as that.]
Lincoln on Skedaddle.
“Don’t talk to me bosh! I am sickened each day “With your bumkum and tweedle dee twaddle: “Why, on earth, do you tell me our men run away, “When the right term to use is Skedaddle? “None but cow-hearted men, Europeans to wit, “Run away like a herd of scared cattle; “True Yankees! when licked, may Skedaddle a bit, “But ne’er run like base cowards in battle!”
Two brothers named Fish were drafted in the city of New York, out of Twenty Seven-street The facetious Abe hearing this, at once declared it to be “A most miraculous draught of fishes.”
A number of clergymen of the Beecher school waited on the President with a memorial, signed by 7,000 religious Presbyterians, requesting that General Grant be removed on the ground of drunkenness. They got a warm reception from Old Abe for their pains, who retorted thus: “Only tell me,” said he, “where he buys his liquor, I will be obliged to you, and will send a cask of the same liquor to every general in the army.”
Alluding to one of the great battles recently fought, the President, in bidding farewell to the general said, “I hear that the rebels complain of a want of salt, I hope when you return you will be able to inform me that after you have as-(sault)ed them they will have been sufficiently peppered.”
The President at a dinner party related the following with much gusto: “During one of the retreats of the Army of the Potomac, some of the cavalry had a desire to cross, the commanding officer called out to them to ‘form two deep.’ One of them, however, in advance of the rest, and up to his horse’s nose in water, called out that he was ‘too deep already.’”
How to Conquer the South.
The kind words the President said regarding the enemy, called forth a rebuke from an elderly lady who was present. She wondered how he could speak kindly of his enemies, when he should rather destroy them. “What, madam?” replied the President, “do I not destroy them when I make them my friends?”
When President Lincoln was a very young man, he paid a visit to New York. While there, some thief contrived to ease him of his watch. The next day the young joker inserted the following in the New York Herald: “Stolen, a watch worth a hundred dollars. If the thief will return it, he shall be informed, gratis, where he may steal one worth two of it, and no questions asked.”
Blowing Hot and Cold.
“It’s very hot in the south, Mr. Lincoln, is it not?” said a personal friend to Lincoln, on his return from a visit to an important station of the Federal army. “Very,” was the ready answer, “I saw a woman do her ironing with no other warming power save that of the sunshine, and as I came away she was hanging her kettle out of the window to get her tea ready.”
On Mrs. Lincoln doubting the heroism of the niggers, her husband related the following:—“A negro at Boston had a severe attack of rheumatism, which finally settled in his foot. He bathed it and rubbed it, but to no purpose. Finally, tearing the bandage off, he stuck it out with a savage grin, and shaking his fist at it, exclaimed, ‘Ache away, dear old feller, I shan’t do nothing more for yer; dis child,’ tapping his breast, ‘can stand it as long as you can, so ache away.’”
“For a military man,” said a conceited coxcomb, to Abe one day, “don’t you think moustaches becoming?” “Well, sir,” was Abe’s reply, “they may be coming, but haven’t yet arrived.”
“It,” said the conductor of State Affairs in America, “would be a perpetual flea hunt if one were obliged to run down all the inuendoes, the inveracities, the insinuations, the suspicions, &c., uttered against him.”
Change of Climate.
The President of America, while taking a stroll along the wharfs of Boston, U. S., met a tall, gaunt-looking figure, a “digger,” from California, and got into conversation with him. “Healthy climate, I suppose?” “Healthy! it ain’t anything else. Why, stranger, you can choose there any climate you like, hot or cold, and that without travellin’ more than fifteen minutes. Jest think o’ that the next cold morning when you get out o’ bed. There’s a mountain there—the Sawyer Navaday, they call it—with a valley on each side of it, the one hot, and t’other cold. Well, get on the top of that mountain with a double-barrelled gun, and you can, without movin’, kill either summer or winter game, jest as you will.” “What! have you ever tried it?” “Tried it! often, and should have done pretty well, but for one thing.” “Well, what was that?” “I wanted a dog that would stand both climates. The last dog I had froze off his tail while pintin’ on the summer side. He didn’t get entirely out of the winter side, you see—trew as you live.” Abe sloped.
Admiral Farragut said that his ship was a first rate vessel, but its crew was somewhat ailing. The President immediately ordered a new crew and told poor Farragut to keep his “cruel” (crew ill news) to himself for the future.
Lincoln’s opinion of Mr. Curtain.
When Curtain was put forth as the Republican Candidate for Pennsylvania, the President said, “he believed that Curtin to be nothing more than a Blind.”
A new Motive Power.
A grand mistake was made in the construction of one of the Federal rams, there being insufficient space for stowing the fuel. Upon hearing this he blamed the constructor, and asked him if he intended the vessel to be driven by the force of circumstances.
Southern Hills versus Northern Banks.
“Banks is a good general,” said Sumpter to the President, on a recent occasion. “Yes,” was the reply, “but our Northern Banks are not equal to the Southern Hills.”
The President and the Pleader.
It being hinted to a western pleader that he ought to bring his defence to a close; he answered, “that he would speak as long as he pleased.” “You have spoken longer than you please,” said Lincoln, who was standing by his side.
“What horrid weather, President,” said a tall rawboned Yankee. “It is; I thought I had altered the condition of your cly-mate,” said the President, winking.
Concerning Congress Men.
It is stated that he was much disgusted at the crowd of officers who some time ago used to loiter about the Washington hotels, and he is reported to have remarked to a member of Congress; “These fellows and the Congress men do vex me sorely.”
Another member of Congress was conversing with the President, and was somewhat annoyed by the President’s propensity to divert attention from the serious object he had on his mind, by ludicrous allusions.
“Mr. Lincoln,” said he, “I think you would have your joke if you were within a mile of hell.”
“Yes,” said the President, “that is about the distance to the Capitol.”
Inquisitiveness Nonplussed. Mr. Lincoln has a very effective way sometimes of dealing with men who trouble him with questions. Somebody asked him how many men the rebels had in the field. He replied very seriously, “Twelve hundred thousand, according to the best authority.”
The interrogator blanched in the face, and ejaculated, “My God!”
“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?”
The inquisitive man looked for his hat soon after “seeing it.”
The Judge and his Coachman.
One day, when Mr. Bates was remonstrating with Mr. Lincoln against the appointment of some indifferent lawyer to a place of judicial importance, the President interposed with, “Come, now, Bates, he’s not half so bad as you think. 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 made road before me, and I had no horse. The judge overtook me in his waggon. ‘Hello, Lincoln, are you not going to the court-house? Come in, and I’ll give you a seat.’ Well, I got in, and the judge went on reading his papers. Presently the waggon struck a stump on one side of the road; then it hopped off to the other. I looked out, and I saw the driver was jerking from side to side in his seat, so, says I, ‘Judge, I think your coachman has been taking a little drop too much this morning.’ ‘Well, I declare, Lincoln,’ said he, ‘I should not much wonder if you were 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—‘By gorra! that’s the first rightful decision you have given for the last twelvemonth.’”
Concerning the President Personally.
Some one was smoking in the presence of the President, and complimented him on having no vices, neither drinking nor smoking.
“That is a doubtful compliment,” answered the President, “I recollect once being outside a stage in Illinois, and a man sitting by me offered me a segar. I told him I had no vices. He said nothing, smoked for some time, and then grunted out, ‘It’s my experience that folks who have no vices have plagued few virtues.’”
The President’s Vanity.
Old Abe is rather vain of his height, but one day a young man called on him who was certainly three inches taller than the former; he was like the mathematical definition of the straight line—length without breadth. “Really,” said old Abe, “I must look up to you; if you ever get in a deep place you ought to be able to wade out.” That reminds us of the story told of Lincoln, when called from an hotel. He at once obeyed the command of the assembled Yankees, with his wife (somewhat below medium height), and made the following quizzical remarks: “Here I am, and here is Mrs. Lincoln. That’s the long and short of it.”
Tremendous answer. “How old is that tree, Abe?” said a friend of the now President, when the latter was engaged in the occupation of rail-splitting. “Well, I am not sure; but I am just about to axe him.”
Two instances where the President was not reminded of a story. The President is often naturally bantered about his habit of story-telling.
Dr. Hovey, of Dansville, N.Y., called at the White House, and found the occupant on horseback, ready for a ride. The Dr. approached and said: “Lincoln, I thought I would call and see you before leaving the city, and hear you tell a story.”
Lincoln greeted him pleasantly, and asked him where he was from.
The reply was: “From Western New York.”
“Well, that’s a good enough country without stories,” said the President, and off he rode.
Some moral philosopher was telling the old President one day about the undercurrent of public opinion; he went on to explain it at length, and drew an illustration from the Mediterranean Sea. The current seemed very curiously to flow in both from the Black Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; but a shrewd Yankee, by means of a contrivance of floats, had discovered that in the outlet into the Atlantic only about thirty feet of the surface water flowed inward, while there was a tremendous current under that flowing out. “That,” said Mr. Lincoln, much bored, “that don’t remind me of any story I ever heard of.” The philosopher despaired of making a serious impression by his argument, and left.
The President’s Secret.
When the Sherman expedition, which captured Fort Royal, was fitting out, there was great curiosity to learn where it had gone. A person, visiting the chief magistrate at the White House, importuned him very much to disclose the destination to him.
“Will you keep it entirely secret?” asked the President.
“Oh, yes, upon my honour.”
“Well,” said the President, “I’ll tell you.” Assuming an air of great mystery, and drawing the man close to him, he kept him a moment awaiting title revelation with an open mouth and great anxiety. “Well,” said he, in a loud whisper, which was heard all over the room, “the expedition has gone to—sea!”
About the Negro Question.
The story will be remembered, perhaps, of Mr. Lincoln’s reply to a Springfield (Ill.) clergyman, who asked him what was to be his policy on the slavery question.
“Well, your question is rather a good one, but I will answer it by telling you a story. You know Father B., the old Methodist preacher? and you know Fox river and its freshets? 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 the 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,’ said old Abe, ‘I am not going to worry myself over the slavery question till I get to it!’ Some few days afterwards a Methodist minister called on the President, and on being presented to him, said simply, ‘Mr. President, I have come to tell you that I think we have got to Fox river.’ The old joker thanked the clergyman, and laughed heartily.”
An extraordinary reply by Old Abe.
One day, it is said, a distinguished New York official was at Washington, and in an interview with old Abe, introduced the question of emancipation. “You see,” said Lincoln, “we’ve got to be mighty cautious how we manage the negro question; if we’re not, we may be like unto the barber out in Illinois, who was shaving a fellow with hatchet face and lantern jaws like mine. The barber put his finger in his customer’s mouth, to make his cheek stick out, but while shaving away he cut through the fellow’s cheek and cut off his own finger! Now, if we don’t play smart about the negro we shall do as the barber did.”
A Rebuke to people asking trivial questions. A farmer, not over patriotic, of the State of Virginia, importuned the President to use his influence to have a claim for damage done to his farm by soldiers considered immediately.
“Why, my dear sir,” replied Mr. Lincoln blandly, “I couldn’t think of such a thing; if I considered individual cases, I should find work enough for twenty Presidents!”
“But,” said the persevering sufferer, “couldn’t you just give me a line to Colonel —— about it? Just one line?”
“Ha, ha, ha!” responded Old Abe, “you remind me of old Jock Chase, out in Illinois.”
At this announcement the crowd huddled forward to listen.
“You see, Jock, I knew him like a brother—used to be a lumberman on the Illinois, and he was steady and sober, and 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 steamboat was put on, and Jock—he’s now dead, poor fellow!—was made a captain of her. He was always used to take the the wheel, going through the rapids. One day, when the boat was plunging and wallowing along the boiling current, and Jock’s utmost vigilance was being exercised to keep her in the narrow channel, a boy pulled his coat-tail and hailed him with, ‘Stay, Mister Captain! I wish you’d jest stop your boat a minute—I have lost my apple overboard!’”
“I don’t believe him,” said Lincoln, on reading a dispatch from one of his generals; “he is the most notorious liar I ever knew. I have seen him with lies swarming all around him as thick as flies round a horse in autumn.”
“Those pills of Brandredth’s,” said Abe, “are very powerful. I knew a man out west who used to blast rocks with them; and, if thrown into the crater of Ætna, they would stop the bile” (boil).
A Sharp Rejoinder.
“How beautiful,” said a poetical friend of the President’s, who was noted for his disregard for personal cleanliness, “is the face of Nature after a shower.” “Aye,” said Abe, “and your’s would look all the better for a wash!”
Wisdom at a Discount.
“Have you heard,” said Mrs. Lincoln, “that our old friend, Mrs. Cobb, has been prosecuted for bigamy?” “I have,” replied Lincoln, “and am sorry for her, for her crime is that ‘She loved not wisely but two well.’”
When Atlanta was destroyed a large quantity of pickles were, inadvertently, destroyed. Lincoln said, “It didn’t matter much, as his generals generally contrived to get their men into no end of pickles; but had they desired to have retained them they surely ought to have been preserved.”
“Why,” said the President, “is a Southern Summer like the disunited States of America?” His official friends gave it up. “Why,” said the queerist, “because its cold (gold) is very difficult to catch.”
Over Early v. over late.
When it was made known to President Lincoln that Sherman had gained a victory over Early he said that it was a blessing to hear it, “as the victories of the Federal generals were mostly over late.”
The Poet and the President.
A poet was in the habit of pestering the President with his books. On one occasion he brought one to the President, who told him to put it into rhyme. He did so, and brought it back. “Ah!” said Abe, “it will do now; it is rhyme, formerly it was neither rhyme nor reason.”
In a mixed company which the President honored with his presence, the topic of conversation turned on matrimony, when one, as is usual, compared it to Heaven, and another to Hell. On its being referred to the President, he, like a philosopher as he is, said “We had better take a middle course and call it Purgatory.”
Abe and the Picture Dealer.
A New York picture dealer once applied to Abe Lincoln to purchase, at a preposterously high figure, a portrait, which he assured him was the original of Wren, (Sir Christopher) by Hogarth. Abe pretended to scan the picture closely, and then cut the interview short by saying that it was not a portrait of Wren; it looked more like robin (robbing).
“You have not enough devil in you, Abe, to succeed in the task you have undertaken,” said a bosom friend of the President’s. “Well, blame my old father,” said the President, “for it was he who left the l (hell) out of Abe—Ab(l)e.”
When Sojourner Truth visited the present occupant of the White House, the President gave [her] a most hearty welcome. “Lies,” said he, “are pictured as being black as Erebus; but thou, Truth, art black also.” The most numerous lies, said the sable skin, are white lies.
The National Debt.
“I have come to consult you on the enormous increase of our national debt,” said Chase to his master; “but perhaps you would rather I deferred it for the present?” “By no means,” was the reply; “its great interest claims my most devout attention.”
When it was falsely telegraphed that Charlestown was in flames, the President explained his disbelief by saying that he believed it was a flaming lie!
The Sword and the Law.
The President was lamenting to a lawyer the immense number who fell at the battle of ——. The lawyer, to soothe him, said “That those who live by the sword must expect to die by the sword!” “Yes,” said Abe; “and those who live by the law must expect to die by the law.”
Pepper v. Laurels.
When it was telegraphed that Rosencranz had gone to Cullpepper, Abe said “It was a foolish errand, and that the general was sent out to cull laurels.”
Abe at the Play.
Abe, who is very fond of theatricals, went, upon a recent occasion, to the theatre to see a new play. The friend, who was with him, remarked upon the thinness of the house, and said he supposed it was owing to the war. “No,” replied the jester; “it is not owing to the war, it is owing to the piece.”
Abe and the Officer.
A craven-hearted officer was boasting the other day to Lincoln of the wounds he had received in his face. The President, however, knowing him to be a coward, told him he had better take care the next time he ran away how he looked back.
At a dinner the President recently gave at the White House, he was much amused by the following anecdote, related by one of the officers who had just returned from a northern victory. During the battle the rain came pouring down to such an extent that he remarked to a companion, who stood by, (an Irishman) that it reminded him of the general deluge. “And faith,” says Pat, “who’s that? I never heard of that general before.”
The Scotch Editor.
At this same dinner party there was a Scotchman, an editor of one of the northern newspapers. Opposite to him, at the table, sat a gentleman who had indulged pretty freely in his cups. In the course of conversation he asked the Scotchman “What was the difference between a Scott and a Lot?” To this the Scotchman replied, that “the difference lay in the breadth of the table.”
A certain senator, not the highest ornament to the White House, had a custom of shaking his head when another member spoke. The speaker complained of this as an affront. The President, however, took it good humouredly, and assured his friend that although the gentleman often shook his head, there was nothing in it.
A fop, who was in a company where the President attended, was boasting that he had every sense in perfection. Old Abe, however, hinted to a friend “that there was one sense which he wanted, and that was common sense.”
An officer of the northern army who was remarkable for the brilliancy of his fireworks, not connected with war, was speaking of the beauty of an epitaph, written upon a friend of his, who had fallen in battle. His friend was fond of music; and the officer said he is gone to that place where only his own harmony can be exceeded. The President slyly hinted that the same might serve for him by only altering one word—“He is gone to that place where only his own fireworks can be excelled.”
Abe had a book sent to him by a certain author, “Le Journal Janet,” with a passage in it; that the author thought might be justified, and said it was a metaphor. “Well,” said the President, “it is such an one as I never met-a-fore.”
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