General Sherman a few weeks before the end of the war asked Lincoln explicitly whether he wanted the President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis captured or allowed to escape. Lincoln replied: 'I'll tell you, General, what I think of taking Jeff Davis. Out in Illinois there was an old temperance lecturer who was very strict in the doctrine and practice of total abstinence. One day after a long ride in the hot sun he stopped at the house of a friend who proposed making him lemonade. When the friend asked if he wouldn't like a drop of something stronger in the drink he replied, “I'm opposed to it on principle.” “But,” he added with a longing glance at the bottle that stood conveniently at hand, “if you could manage to put in a drop unbeknownst to me I guess it wouldn't hurt me much.” Now, General, I am bound to oppose the escape of Jeff Davis; but if you could manage to let him slip out unbeknownst-like, I guess it wouldn't hurt me much.'
Thursday, February 2, 2017
During the run-up to the presidential election of 1864 the Republican Party appeared in complete disarray and the opposition rejoiced. One who was clearly disturbed about what appeared to be the impending defeat of the Republican ticket came to Lincoln about it. The president seemed oddly unfazed by the whole thing. 'It is not worth fretting about; it reminds me of an old acquaintance who having a son of a scientific turn bought him a microscope. The boy went around experimenting with his glass on everything that came his way. One day at the dinner table his father took up a piece of cheese. “Don't eat that, father” said the boy; “it is full of wrigglers.” “My son,” replied the old gentleman, taking at the same time a huge bite, “let 'em wriggle; I can stand it if they can.''’
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Lincoln liked to tell the story of a seedy fellow asking Secretary of State Seward for a consulate in Berlin, then Paris, then Liverpool, eventually coming down to a clerkship in the State Department. Hearing these places were all filled, he said, 'well, then, can you lend me $5?'
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Like the rest of Lincoln’s cabinet Edwin Stanton was gifted with massive talent, and as a necessary corollary, had an ego the size of a barn. Indeed, some of Lincoln's closest friends voiced their concern to Lincoln that Stanton just might go too far and try to run away with the whole concern. Lincoln, however, was curiously unfazed by their concerns. He drawled: “we may have to treat him as they are sometimes obliged to treat a Methodist minister I know of out West. He gets wrought up to so high a pitch of excitement in his prayers and exhortations that they are obliged to put bricks in his pockets to keep him down. We may be obliged to serve Stanton in the same way, but I guess we'll let him jump awhile first.”'
Friday, January 27, 2017
At one point during the war Lincoln was forced by his cabinet to confront the realization that many people who were thought to be Unionists were actually spies providing key information to the Confederacy. After presenting the evidence, Secretary of War Stanton asked for direction. Lincoln, who had been silent and visibly disturbed, expressed his feelings with a story about the dilemma of an old farmer who had a very large shade tree towering over his house. 'It was a majestic-looking tree and apparently perfect in every part – tall, straight and of immense size - the grand old sentinel of his forest home. One morning while at work in his garden he saw a squirrel run up the tree into a hole and thought the tree might be hollow. He proceeded to examine it carefully and - much to his surprise - he found that the stately tree that he had valued for its beauty and grandeur to be the pride and protection of his little farm was hollow from top to bottom. Only a rim of sound wood remained barely sufficient to support its weight. What was he to do? If he cut it down it would do immense damage with its great length and spreading branches. If he let it remain his family was in constant danger; in a storm it might fall or the wind might blow it down and his house and children be crushed by it. What should he do? As he turned away he said sadly, “I wish I had never seen that squirrel.”’
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
An old friend from Springfield after an evening in the White House asked Lincoln, 'How does it feel to be President of the Unites States?' Lincoln replied, 'you have heard about the man tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail? A man in the crowd asked him how he liked it, and his reply was that if it wasn't for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk.'
Monday, January 23, 2017
At one Cabinet meeting Lincoln had all his counselors but one against him. He told them he was ‘reminded of a revival meeting in Illinois when a fellow with a few drinks too many in him had walked up the aisle to a front pew. All eyes were on him, but he didn't care; he joined in the singing, droned amen at the close of prayers, and as the meeting proceeded dozed off to sleep. Before the meeting ended the pastor asked the usual question: “Who are on the Lord's side?” and the congregation arose en masse. When the pastor asked, “Who are on the side of the Devil” the dozing sleeper came to, heard part of the question, saw the parson standing, and rose to his feet to say “I don't exactly understand the question but I'll stand by you, parson, to the last. But it seems to me that we're in a hopeless minority.”'