The Life, Public Services and State Papers of Abraham Lincoln

By Henry J. Raymond

Anecdotes and Reminiscences of President Lincoln


It has been well said by a profound critic of Shakspeare, and it occurs to me as very appropriate in this connection, that "the spirit which held the woe of Lear and the tragedy of Hamlet would have.  broken, had it not also had the humor of the Merry Wives of Windsor  and the merriment of the Midsummer Night's Dream." This is as  true of Mr. Lincoln as it was of Shakspeare. The capacity to tell  and enjoy a good anecdote no doubt prolonged his life. I have often  heard this asserted by one of his most intimate friends. And the  public impression of his fecundity in this respect was not exaggerated.  Mr. Beecher once observed to me of his own wealth of illustration, that  he "thought in figures," or, in other words, that an argument habitually took on that form in his mind. This was pre-eminently true of  Mr. Lincoln. The "points" of his argument were driven home in this  way as they could be in no other. In the social circle this characteristic had full play. I never knew him to sit down with a friend for a  five minutes' chat, without being "reminded" of one or more incidents about somebody alluded to in the course of the conversation.  In a corner of his desk he kept a copy of the latest humorous work;  and it was frequently his habit, when greatly fatigued, annoyed, or  depressed, to take this up and read a chapter, with great relief.

The Saturday evening before he left Washington to go to the front,  just previous to the capture of Richmond, I was with him from seven  o'clock till nearly twelve. It had been one of his most trying days.  The pressure of office-seekers was greater at this juncture than I ever  knew it to be, and he was almost worn out. Among the callers that  evening was a party composed of two senators, a representative, an  ex-lieutenant-governor of a Western State, and several private citizens.  They had business of great importance, involving the necessity of the  President's examination of voluminous documents. Pushing every  thing aside, he said to one of the party, "Have you seen the Nasby  paper?" "No, I have not," was the answer; "who is Nasby?"  "There is a chap out in Ohio," returned the President, "who has been  writing a series of letters in the newspapers over signature of Petroleum V. Nasby. Some one sent me a pamphlet collection of them  the other day. I am going to write to 'Petroleum' to come down  here, and I intend to tell him if he will communicate his talent to me,  I will swap places with him!" Thereupon he arose, went to a drawer  in his desk, and, taking out the "Letters," sat down and read one  to the company, finding in their enjoyment of it the temporary excitement and relief which another man would have found in a glass  of wine. The instant he had ceased, the book was thrown aside, his  countenance relapsed into its habitual serious expression, and the business was entered upon with the utmost earnestness.

Just here, I may say with propriety, and I feel that it is due to Mr.  Lincoln's memory to state, that, during the entire period of my stay  in Washington, after witnessing his intercourse with almost all classes  of people, including governors, senators, members of Congress, officers of the army, and familiar friends, I cannot recollect to have ever  heard him relate a circumstance to any one of them all that would  have been out of place uttered in a ladies' drawing-room! I am aware  that a different impression prevails, founded it may be in some instances  upon facts; but where there is one fact of the kind I am persuaded that  there are forty falsehoods, at least. At any rate, what I have stated is  voluntary testimony, from a stand-point, I submit, entitled to respectful consideration.

Among his stories freshest in my mind, one which he related to me  shortly after its occurrence, belongs to the history of the famous interview on board the River Queen, at Hampton Roads, between himself  and Secretary Seward, and the rebel Peace Commissioners. It was  reported at the time that the President told a "little story" on that  occasion, and the inquiry went around among the newspapers, "What  was it?" The New York Herald published what purported to be a  version of it, but the "point" was entirely lost, and it attracted no  attention. Being in Washington a few days subsequent to the interview with the Commissioners (my previous sojourn there having terminated about the first of last August), I asked Mr. Lincoln, one day,  "if it was true that he told Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell a story."  "Why, yes," he replied, manifesting some surprise, "but has it leaked  out? I was in hopes nothing would be said about it, lest some oversensitive people should imagine there was a degree of levity in the  intercourse between us." He then went on to relate the circumstances  which called it out. "You see," said he, "we had reached and were  discussing the slavery question. Mr. Hunter said, substantially, that  the slaves, always accustomed to an overseer, and to work upon compulsion, suddenly freed, as they would be if the South should consent  to peace on the basis of the 'Emancipation Proclamation,' would precipitate not only themselves but the entire Southern society into  irremediable ruin. No work would be done, nothing would be cultivated, and both blacks and whites would starve!" Said the President, "I waited for Seward to answer that argument, but as he was  silent, I at length said: "Mr. Hunter, you ought to know a great deal  better about this matter than I, for you have always lived under the  slave system. I can only say, in reply to your statement of the case,  that it reminds me of a man out in Illinois, by the name of Case, who undertook, a few years ago, to raise a very large herd of hogs. It  was a great trouble to feed them, and how to get around this was a  puzzle to him. At length he hit on the plan of planting an immense  field of potatoes, and, when they were sufficiently grown, he turned  the whole herd into the field, and let them have full swing, thus saving  not only the labor of feeding the hogs, but also that of digging the  potatoes! Charmed with his sagacity, he stood one day leaning  against the fence, counting his hogs, when a neighbor came along.  'Well, well,' said he, 'Mr. Case, this is all very fine. Your hogs are  doing very well just now, but you know out here in Illinois the frost  comes early, and the ground freezes for a foot deep. Then what are  they going to do?' This was a view of the matter Mr. Case had not  taken into account. Butchering-time for hogs was 'way on in December or January! He scratched his head, and at length stammered,  'Well, it may come pretty hard on their snouts, but I don't see but  that it will be 'root, hog, or die!'"

The simplicity and absence of all ostentation on the part of Mr.  Lincoln, is well illustrated by an incident which occurred on the occasion of a visit he made to Commodore Porter, at Fortress Monroe.  Noticing that the banks of the river were dotted with flowers, he said  "Commodore, Tad" (the pet name for his youngest son, who had  accompanied him on the excursion) "is very fond of flowers; won't you  let a couple of men take a boat and go with him for an hour or two,  along the banks of the river, and gather the flowers?" Look at  this picture, and then endeavor to imagine the head of a European  nation making a similar request, in this humble way, of one of his  subordinates!

One day I took a couple of friends from New York up-stairs, who  wished to be introduced to the President. It was after the hour for  business calls, and we found him alone, and, for once, at leisure. Soon  after the introduction, one of my friends took occasion to indorse,  very decidedly, the President's Amnesty Proclamation, which had  been severely censured by many friends of the Administration. Mr.  S-----'s approval touched Mr. Lincoln. He said, with a great deal of  emphasis, and with an expression of countenance I shall never forget,  "When a man is sincerely penitent for his misdeeds, and gives satisfactory evidence of the same, he can safely be pardoned, and there  is no exception to the rule!"

Shortly afterwards, he told us this story of " Andy Johnson," as he  was familiarly in the habit of calling him. It was a few weeks prior to the Baltimore Convention, before it was known that Governor Johnson would be the nominee for the Vice-Presidency. Said he, "I had  a visit last night from Colonel Moody, 'the fighting Methodist parson,'  as he is called in Tennessee. He is on his way to the Philadelphia  Conference, and, being in Washington over-night, came up to see me.  He told me," he continued, "this story of Andy Johnson and General  Buel, which interested me intensely. Colonel Moody was in Nashville  the day that it was reported that Buel had decided to evacuate the  city. The rebels, strongly re-enforced, were said to be within two  days' march of the capital. Of course, the city was greatly excited.  Said Moody, 'I went in search of Johnson, at the edge of the evening,  and found him at his office, closeted with two gentlemen, who were  walking the floor with him, one on each side. As I entered, they  retired, leaving me alone with Johnson, who came up to me, manifesting intense feeling, and said, "Moody, we are sold out! Buel is a  traitor! He is going to evacuate the city, and in forty-eight hours we  shall all be in the hands of the rebels." Then he commenced pacing the  floor again, twisting his hands, and chafing like a caged tiger, utterly  insensible to his friend's entreaties to become calm. Suddenly he  turned and said, "Moody, can you pray?" "That is my business, sir,  as a minister of the Gospel," returned the Colonel. "Well, Moody, I  wish you would pray," said Johnson; and instantly both went down  upon their knees, at opposite sides of the room. As the prayer became fervent, Johnson began to respond in true Methodist style.  Presently he crawled over on his hands and knees to Moody's side,  and put his arm over him, manifesting the deepest emotion. Closing  the prayer with a hearty 'Amen!' from each, they arose. Johnson  took a long breath, and said, with emphasis, "Moody, I feel better!"  Shortly afterwards he asked, "Will you stand by me?" "Certainly,  I will," was the answer. "Well, Moody, I can depend upon you; you  are one in a hundred thousand!" He then commenced pacing the  floor again. Suddenly he wheeled, the current of his thought having  changed, and said, "Oh! Moody, I don't want you to think I have  become a religious man because I asked you to pray. I am sorry to  say it, but I am not, and have never pretended to be, religious. No  one knows this better than you; but, Moody, there is one thing about  it--I Do believe in ALMIGHTY GOD! And I believe also in the BIBLE,  and I say, damn me, if Nashville shall be surrendered!"'"

And Nashville was not surrendered!

Judge Baldwin, of California, being in Washington, called one day  on General Halleck, and, presuming upon a familiar acquaintance in California a few years since, 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 Halleck, "and I regret I  can't grant it." Judge 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."

One bright morning, last May, the Sunday-school children of the  city of Washington, marching in procession on "anniversary" day,  passed in review through the portico on the north side of the White  House. The President stood at the open window above the door,  responding with a smile and a bow to the lusty cheers of the little  folks as they passed. Hon. Mr. Odell, always wide awake when Sunday-school children are around, with one or two other gentlemen,  stood by his side as I joined the group. It was a beautiful sight; the  rosy-cheeked boys and girls, in their "Sunday's best," with banners  and flowers, all intent upon seeing the President, and, as they caught  sight of his tall figure, cheering as if their very lives depended upon  it! After enjoying the scene for some time, making pleasant remarks  about a face that now and then struck him, Mr. Lincoln said: "I heard  a story last night about Daniel Webster when a lad, which was new  to me, and it has been running in my head all the morning. When  quite young, at school, Daniel was one day guilty of a gross violation  of the rules. He was detected in the act, and called up by the teacher  for punishment. This was to be the old-fashioned 'feruling' of the  hand. His hands happened to be very dirty. Knowing this, on his  way to the teacher's desk he spit upon the palm of his righthand,  wiping it off upon the side of his pantaloons. 'Give me your hand,  sir,' said the teacher, very sternly. Out went the right hand, partly  cleansed. The teacher looked at it a moment, and said, 'Daniel, if  you will find another hand in this school-room as filthy as that, I will  let you off this time!' Instantly from behind his back came the left  hand. 'Here it is, sir,' was the ready reply. 'That will do,' said the  teacher, for this time; you can take your seat, sir!'"

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 major general.  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. Lincoln."

It is said that, on the occasion of a serenade, the President was  called for by the crowd assembled. He appeared at a window with  his with (who is somewhat below the medium height), and made the  following "brief remarks:" "Here I am, and here is Mrs. Lincoln.  That's the long and the short of it."

Soon after the opening of Congress last winter, my friend, the Hon.  Mr. Shannon, from California, made the customary call at the White  House. In the conversation that ensued, Mr. Shannon said: "Mr.  President, I met an old friend of yours in California last summer, a  Mr. Campbell, who had a good deal to say of your Springfield life."  "Ah!" returned Mr. Lincoln, "I am glad to hear of him. Campbell  used to be a dry fellow in those days," he continued. "For a time he  was Secretary of State. One day during the legislative vacation, a  meek, cadaverous-looking man, with a white neckcloth, introduced  himself to him at his office, and, stating that he had been informed  that Mr. C. had the letting of the hall of representatives, he wished to  secure it, if possible, for a course of lectures he desired to deliver in  Springfield. 'May I ask,' said the Secretary, 'what is to be the subject of your lectures?' 'Certainly,' was the reply, with a very solemn  expression of countenance. 'The course I wish to deliver is on the  Second Coming of our Lord.' 'It is of no use,' said C.; 'if yon will  take my advice, you will not waste your time in this city. It is my  private opinion that, if the Lord has been in Springfield once, He will  never come the second time!'"

Some gentlemen were once finding fault with the President because  certain Generals were not given commands. "The fact is," replied  Mr. Lincoln, "I have got more pegs than I have holes to put them in."

A clergyman from Springfield, Illinois, being in Washington early in  Mr. Lincoln's administration, called upon him, and in the course of  conversation asked him what was to be his policy on the slavery question. "Well," said the President, "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."

"I shall ever cherish among the brightest memories of my life,"  says Rev. Dr. J. P. Thompson, "the recollection of an hour in his  working-room last September, which was one broad sheet of sunshine.  He had spent the morning poring over the returns of a court-martial  upon capital cases, and studying to decide them according to truth;  and upon the entrance of a friend, he threw himself into an attitude  of relaxation, and sparkled with good-humor. 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."

My attention has been two or three times called to a paragraph  now going the rounds of the newspapers concerning a singular apparition of himself in a looking-glass, which Mr. Lincoln is stated to  have seen on the day he was first nominated at Chicago. The story  as told is made to appear very mysterious, and believing that the taste  for the supernatural is sufficiently ministered unto without perverting  the facts, I will tell the story as the President told it to John Hay, the  assistant private secretary, and myself. We were in his room together  about dark, the evening of the Baltimore Convention. The gas had  just been lighted, and he had been telling us how he had that afternoon received the news of the nomination of Andrew Johnson for  Vice-President before he heard of his own.

It seemed that the dispatch announcing his renomination had been  sent to his office from the War Department while he was at lunch.  Directly afterward, without going back to the official chamber, he proceeded to the War Department. While there, the telegram came  announcing the nomination of Johnson. "What," said he to the operator, "do they nominate a Vice-President before they do a President?"  "Why," replied the astonished official, "have you not heard of your  own nomination? It was sent to the White House two hours ago"  "It is all right," replied the President; "I shall probably find it on  my return."

Laughing pleasantly over this incident, he said, soon afterward: "A  very singular occurrence took place the day I was nominated at Chicago, four years ago, which I am reminded of to-night. In the afternoon of the day, returning home from down town, I went up-stairs to  Mrs. Lincoln's sitting-room. Feeling somewhat tired, I lay down  upon a couch in the room, directly opposite a bureau upon which was  a looking-glass. As I reclined, my eye fell upon the glass, and I saw  distinctly two images of myself, exactly alike, except that one was a  little paler than the other. I arose, and lay down again, with the  same result. It made me quite uncomfortable for a few moments; but  some friends coming in, the matter passed out of my mind. The next  day, while walking in the street, I was suddenly reminded of the circumstance, and the disagreeable sensation produced by it returned. I  had never seen any thing of the kind before, and did not know what to  make of it. I determined to go home and place myself in the same  position, and if the same effect was produced, I would make up my  mind that it was the natural result of some principle of refraction or  optics which I did not understand, and dismiss it. I tried the experiment, with the same result, and as I had said to myself, accounting for  it on some principle unknown to me, it ceased to trouble me. But,"  said he, "some time ago I tried to produce the same effect here, by  arranging a glass and couch in the same position, without success."  He did not say, as is asserted in the story as printed, that either he or  Mrs. Lincoln attached any omen to' it whatever. Neither did he say  the double reflection was seen while he was walking about the room.  On the contrary, it was only visible in a certain position, and at a certain angle, and therefore, he thought, could be accounted for upon scientific principles.

A distinguished public officer being in Washington, in an interview  with the President, introduced the question of emancipation. "Well,  you see," said Mr. Lincoln, "we've got to be very cautious how we  manage the negro question. If we're not, we shall be like the barber  out in Illinois, who was shaving a fellow with a hatchet face and lantern jaws like mine. The barber stuck his finger in his customer's mouth to make his cheek stick out, but while shaving away he cu  through the fellow's cheek and cut off his own finger! If we are not  very careful, we shall do as the barber did!"

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 Niagara River 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."

Being asked at another time by an "anxious" visitor as to what he  would do in certain contingencies--provided the rebellion was not  subdued after three or four years of effort on the part of the Government--"Oh," said the President, "there is no alternative but to keep  'pegging' away!"

After the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, Governor  Morgan, of New York, was at the White House one day, when the  President said:--"I do not agree with those who say that slavery is  dead. We are like whalers who have been long on a chase--we have  at last got the harpoon into the monster, but we must now look how  we steer, or, with one 'flop' of his tail, he will yet send us all into  eternity!"

During a public "reception," a farmer, from one of the border  counties of Virginia, told the President that the Union soldiers, in  passing his farm, had helped themselves not only to hay, but his  horse, and he hoped the President would urge the proper officer to  consider his claim immediately.

Mr. Lincoln said that this reminded him of an old acquaintance of  his, "Jack Chase," who used to be a lumberman on the Illinois, a steady,  sober man, 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 steamer was put on, and Jack 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, 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!"

The President was once speaking about 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 man to keep doing so unt  the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me  won't amount to any thing. If the end brings me out wrong, ten  angels swearing I was right would make no difference."

A gentleman was relating to the President how a friend of his had  been driven away from New Orleans as a Unionist, and how, on his  expulsion, when he asked to see the writ by which he was expelled,  the deputation which called on him told him that the Government had  made up their minds to do nothing illegal, and so they had issued no  illegal writs, and simply meant to make him go of his own free will.  "Well," said Mr. Lincoln, "that reminds me of a hotel-keeper down  at St. Louis, who boasted that he never had a death in his hotel, for  whenever a guest was dying in his house he carried him out to die in  the gutter."

One evening the President brought a couple of friends into the  "State dining-room" to see my picture. Something was said, in the  conversation that ensued, that "reminded" him of the following circumstance: "Judge -----," said he, "held the strongest ideas of rigid  government and close construction that I ever met. It was said of  him, on one occasion, that he would hang a man for blowing his nose in the street, but he would quash the indictment if it failed to specify  which hand he blew it with!"

On one occasion, in the Executive chamber, there were present a  number of gentlemen, among them Mr. Seward.

A point in the conversation suggesting the thought, Mr. Lincoln  said: " Seward, you never heard, did you, how I earned my first dollar?""No," said Mr. Seward. "Well," replied he, "I was about  eighteen years of age. I belonged, you know, to what they call  down South, the 'scrubs;' people who do not own slaves are nobody  there. But we had succeeded in raising, chiefly by my labor, sufficient produce, as I thought, to justify me in taking' it down the river  to sell.

"After much persuasion, I got the consent of mother to go, and  constructed a little flatboat, large enough to take a barrel or two of  things, that we had gathered, with myself and little bundle, down to  New Orleans. A steamer was coming down the river. We have, you  know, no wharves on the Western streams; and the custom was, if passengers were at any of the landings, for them to go out in a boat, the  steamer stopping and taking them on board.

"I was contemplating my new flatboat, and wondering whether I  could make it stronger or improve it in any particular, when two men  came down to the shore in carriages with trunks, and looking at the  different boats singled out mine, and asked, 'Who owns this?' I  answered, somewhat modestly, 'I do. ''Will you,' said one of them,  take us and our trunks out to the steamer?' 'Certainly,' said I. I  was very glad to have the chance of earning something. I supposed.  that each of them would give me two or three bits. The trunks were  put on my flatboat, the passengers seated themselves on the trunks,  and I sculled them out to the steamboat.

"They got on board, and I lifted up their heavy trunks, and put  them on deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, when I  called out that they had forgotten to pay me. Each of them took  from his pocket a silver half-dollar, and threw it on the floor of my  boat. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I picked up the money.  Gentlemen, you may think it was a very little thing, and in these days  it seems to me a trifle; but it was a most important incident in my  life. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar i  less than a day--that by honest work I had earned a dollar. The  world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and  confident being from that time."

In August, 1864, the President called for five hundred thousand  more men. The country was much depressed. The rebels had, in  comparatively small force, only a short time before, been to the very  gates of Washington, and returned almost unharmed.

The Presidential election was impending. Many thought another  call for men at such a time would injure, if not destroy, Mr. Lincoln's  chances for re-election. A friend said as much to him one day, after  the President had told him of his purpose to make such a call. "As to  my re-election," replied Mr. Lincoln, "it matters not. We must have  the men. If I go down, I intend to go, like the Cumberland, th my  colors flying!"

A gentleman was one day finding fault with the constant agitation  in Congress of the slavery question. He remarked that, after the adoption of the Emancipation policy, he had hoped for something new.

"There was a man down in Maine," said the President, in reply,  "who kept a grocery-store, and a lot of fellows used to loaf around  that for their toddy. He only gave 'em New England rum, and they  drank pretty considerable of it. But after a while they began to get  tired of that, and kept asking for something new--something new--all  the time. Well, one night, when the whole crowd were around, the  grocer brought out his glasses, and says he, 'I've got something New  for you to drink, boys, now.''Honor bright?' said they. 'Honor  bright,' says he, and with that he sets out a jug. 'Thar,' gays he,  'that's something new; it's New England rum!' says he. Now," remarked Mr. Lincoln, "I guess we're a good deal like that crowd, and  Congress is a good deal like that store-keeper!"

About a week after the Chicago Convention, a gentleman from  New York called upon the President, in company with the Assistant  Secretary of War, Mr. Dana. In the course of conversation, the gentleman said: "What do you think, Mr. President, is the reason General  McClellan does not reply to the letter from the Chicago Convention?"

"Oh!" replied Mr. Lincoln, with a characteristic twinkle of the eye,  "he is intrenching!"

On the occasion 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!'"

"On Mr. Lincoln's reception-day, after the nomination," wrote  Theodore Tilton, in a letter to the Independent, "his face wore an  expression of satisfaction rather than elation. His reception of Mr.  Garrison was an equal honor to host and guest. In alluding to our  failure find the old jail, he said, "Well, Mr. Garrison, when you first  went to Baltimore, you couldn't get out; but the second time, you  couldn't get in.' When one of us mentioned the great enthusiasm at  the convention after Senator Morgan's proposition to amend the Constitution, abolishing slavery, Mr. Lincoln instantly said, 'It was I who  suggested to Mr. Morgan that he should put that idea into his opening  speech.' This was the very best word he has said since the proclamation of freedom."

In the spring of 1862, the President spent several days at Fortress  Monroe, awaiting military operations upon the Peninsula. As a portion of the Cabinet were with him, that was temporarily the seat of  government, and he bore with him constantly the burden of public  affairs. His favorite diversion was reading Shakspeare, whom he  rendered with fine discrimination of emphasis and feeling. One day  (it chanced to be the day before the taking of Norfolk), as he sat reading alone, he called to his aide * in the adjoining room--"You have  been writing long enough, Colonel, come in here; I want to read you  a passage in Hamlet." He read the discussion on ambition between  Hamlet and his courtiers, and the soliloquy, in which conscience debates of a future state. This was followed by passages from Macbeth.  Then opening to King John, he read from the third act the passage in  which Constance bewails her imprisoned, lost boy.

Then closing the book, and recalling the words--

"And, father cardinal, I have heard you say  That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:  If that be true, I shall see my boy again"--

Mr. Lincoln said: "Colonel, did you ever dream of a lost friend, and  feel that you were holding sweet communion with that friend, and yet  have a sad consciousness that it was not a reality?--just so I dream of  my boy Willie." Overcome with emotion, he dropped his head on  the table, and sobbed aloud.

A few days before the President's death, Secretary Stanton tendered  his resignation of the War Department. He accompanied the act with  a most heart-felt 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.

Mr. Lincoln 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.

One of the last, if not the very last story told by President Lin.  coln, was to one of his Cabinet who came to see him, to ask if it would  be proper to permit Jake Thompson to slip through Maine in disguise  and embark for 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 drugshop, where he espied a soda-fountain. 'Mr. Doctor,' said he, 'give  me, plase, a glass of soda-wather, an' if yes 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."

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

"What is the matter now?" inquired the President.

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

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

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

A Congressman elect, from New York State, was once pressing a  matter of considerable importance upon Mr. Lincoln, urging his official  action. "You' must see Raymond about this," said the President (referring to the editor of the New York Times); "he is my LieutenantGeneral in politics. Whatever he says is right in the promises, shall  be done."

The evening before I left Washington, an incident occurred, illustrating very perfectly the character of the man. For two days my  large painting had been on exhibition, upon its completion, in the  East Room, which had been thronged with visitors. Late in the afternoon of the second day, the "black-horse cavalry" escort drew up as  usual in front of the portico, preparatory to the President's leaving for  the "Soldiers' Home," where he spent the midsummer nights. While  the carriage was waiting, I looked around for him, wishing to say a  farewell word, knowing that I should have no other opportunity.  Presently I saw him standing half-way between the portico and the  gateway leading to the War Department, leaning against the iron  fence--one arm thrown over the railing, and one foot on the stone  coping which supports it, evidently having been intercepted, on his way in, from the War Department, by a plain-looking man, who was giving him, very diffidently, an account of a difficulty which he had been unable to have rectified. While waiting, I walked out leisurely to the President's side. He said very little to the man, but was intently studying the expression of his face while he was narrating his trouble. When he had finished, Mr. Lincoln said to him, "Have you a blank card?" The man searched his pockets, but finding none, a gentleman standing near, who had overheard the question, came forward, and said, "Here is one, Mr. President." Several persons had, in the mean time, gathered around. Taking the card and a pencil, Mr. Lincoln sat down upon the stone coping, which is not more than five or six inches above the pavement, presenting almost the appearance of sitting upon the pavement itself, and wrote an order upon the card to the proper official to "examine this man's case." While writing this, I observed several persons passing down the promenade, smiling at each other, at what I presume they thought the undignified appearance of the Head of the Nation, who, however seemed utterly unconscious, either of any impropriety in the action, or of attracting any attention. To me it was not only a touching picture of the native goodness of the man, but of innate nobility of character, exemplified not so much by a disregard of conventionalities, as in unconsciousness that there could be any breach of etiquette, or dignity, in the manner of an honest attempt to serve, or secure justice to a citizen of the Republic, however humble he may be.

* Col Le Grand B. Cannon, of General Wool's staff.
Book Navigation Title Page Preface Illustrations Memorandum Table of Contents   ► Chapter I.   ► Chapter II.   ► Chapter III.   ► Chapter IV.   ► Chapter V.   ► Chapter VI.   ► Chapter VII.   ► Chapter VIII.   ► Chapter IX.   ► Chapter X.   ► Chapter XI.   ► Chapter XII.   ► Chapter XIII.   ► Chapter XIV.   ► Chapter XV.   ► Chapter XVI.   ► Chapter XVII.   ► Chapter XVIII.   ► Chapter XIX.   ► Chapter XX.   ► Chapter XXI. Anecdotes and Reminiscences of President Lincoln.   ► Mr. Lincoln's Sadness   ► His Favorite Poem   ► His Religious Experience   ► His Sympathy   ► His Humor, Shrewdness, and Sentiment   ► The Emancipation Proclamation Appendix. Letters on Sundry Occasions.   ► To Mr. Lodges, of Kentucky   ► To General Hooker   ► To John B. Fry   ► To Governor Magoffin   ► To Count Gasparin   ► The President and General McClellan   ► Warnings Against Assassination Reports, Dispatches, and Proclamations Relating to the Assassination.   ► Secretary Stanton to General Dix   ► The Death-Bed   ► The Assassins   ► Reward Offered by Secretary Stanton   ► Flight of the Assassins   ► The Conspiracy Organized in Canada   ► Booth Killed. Harold Captured   ► Reward Offered by President Johnson   ► The Funeral Official Announcements   ► Acting Secretary Hunger to Minister Adams   ► Acting Secretary Hunter to his Subordinates   ► Orders from Secretary Stanton and General Grant   ► Orders from Secretary "Welles   ► Order from Secretary McCulloch   ► Order from Postmaster-General Dennison   ► Proclamation by President Johnson of a Day of Humiliation and Mourning.   ► Secretary Stanton to Minister Adams   ► Important Letter from J. Wilkes Booth   ► Indictment of the Conspirators   ► The Finding of the Court