A Little Story which Lincoln told the Preachers.
A year or more before Mr. Lincoln's death, a delegation
of clergymen waited upon him in reference to the appoint-
ment of the army chaplains. The delegation consisted of
a Presbyterian, a Baptist, and an Episcopal clergyman.
86 LINCOLN STORIES.
They stated that the character of many of the chaplains
was notoriously bad, and they had come to urge upon the
President the necessity of more discretion in these ap-
" But, gentlemen," said the President, "that is a matter
which the Government has nothing to do with; the chap-
lains are chosen by the regiments."
Not satisfied with this, the clergymen pressed, in turn, a
change in the system. Mr. Lincoln heard them through
without remark, and then said, " "Without any disrespect,
gentlemen, I will tell you a ' little story.'
" Once, in Springfield, I was going off on a short jour-
ney, and reached the depot a little ahead of time. Leaning
against the fence just outside the depot was a little darkey
boy, whom I knew, named ' Dick,' busily digging with his
toe in a mud-puddle. As I came up, I said, ' Dick, what
are you about ?'
" ' Making a church,' said he.
" ' A church?' said I ; ' what do you mean ?'
" ' Why, yes,' said Dick, pointing with his toe, ' don't
you see ? there is the shape of it ; there's the steps and
front-door here the pews, where the folks set and there 's
" ' Yes, I see,' said I, ' but why don't you make a
minister ? '
" l Laws,' answered Dick, with a grin, ' I hain't got mud
enough ! ' "
How Lincoln Stood up for the Word " Sugar-Coated."
Mr. Defrees, the government printer, states, that, when
one of the President's messages was being printed, he was
a good deal disturbed by the use of the term " sugar-
coated," and finally went to Mr. Lincoln about it. Their
WHITE.HOUSE INCIDENTS. 87
relations to each other being of the most intimate character,
he told the President 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 mes-
sages became a part of history, and should be written
" What is the matter now ?" inquired tke President.
""Why," said Mr. Defrees, "you have used an undig-
nified 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 'States that a
certain sentence of another message was very awkwardly
constructed. Calling the President's attention to in the
proof-copy, the latter acknowledged the force of the objec-
tion 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' version, he said, " I
believe you have beaten Seward; but, ' I jings,' I think I
can beat you both." Then, taking up his pen, he wrote
the sentence as it was finally printed.
Lincoln's Advice to a Prominent Bachelor.
Upon the bethrothal of the Prince of Wales to the Prin-
cess Alexandra, Queen Victoria sent a letter to each of
the European sovereigns, and also to President Lincoln,
88 LINCOLN STORIES.
announcing the fact. Lord Lyons, her ambassador at
Washington, a " bachelor," by the way, requested an
audience of Mr. Lincoln, that he might present this im-
portant document in person. At the time appointed he
was received at the White House, in company with Mr.
" May it please your Excellency/' said Lord Lyons, " I
hold in my hand an autograph letter from my royal mis-
tress, Queen Victoria, which I have been commanded to
present to your Excellency. In it she informs your Excel-
lency, that her son, his Royal Highness the Prince of
Wales, is about to contract a matrimonial alliance with her
Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra of Denmark."
After continuing in this strain for a few minutes, Lord
Lyons tendered the letter to the President and awaited his
reply. It was short, simple, and expressive, and consisted
simply of the words :
" Lord Lyons, go thou and do likewise."
It is doubtful if an English ambassador was ever ad-
dressed in this manner before, and it would be interesting
to learn what success he met with in putting the reply in
diplomatic language when he reported it to her Majesty.
Mr. Lincoln and the Bashful Boys He Tells a Story of Daniel
The President and a friend were standing upon the thresh-
old of the door under the portico of the White House }
awaiting the coachman, when a letter was put into his hand.
While he was reading this, people were passing, as is cus-
tomary, up and down the promenade, which leads through
the grounds to the War Department, crossing, of course,
the portico. Attention was attracted to an approaching
party, apparently a countryman, plainly dressed, with his
WHITE-HOUSE INCIDENTS. 89
wife and two little boys, who had evidently been straying
about, looking at the places of public interest in the city.
As they reached the portico, the father, who was in advance,
caught sight of the tall figure of Mr. Lincoln, absorbed in
his letter. His wife and the little boys were ascending the
The man stopped suddenly, put out his hand with a " hush "
to his family, and, after a moment's gaze, he bent down and
whispered to them, " There is the President!" Then leav-
ing them, he slowly made a half circuit around Mr. Lincoln,
watching him intently all the while.
At this point, having finished his letter, the President
turned and said: "Well, we will not wait any longer for
the carriage; it won't hurt you and me to walk down."
The countryman here approached very diffidently, and
asked if he might be allowed to take the President by the
hand; after which, "Would he extend the same privilege
to his wife and little boys?"
Mr. Lincoln, good-naturedly, approached the latter, who
had remained where they were stopped, and, reaching down ?
said a kind word to the bashful little fellows, who shrank
close up to their mother, and did not reply. This simple
act filled the father's cup full.
" The Lord is with you, Mr. President," he said, rever-
ently; and then, hesitating a moment, he added, with strong
emphasis, "and the people, too, sir; and the people, too!"
A few moments later Mr. Lincoln remarked to his friend:
" Great men have various estimates. When Daniel Webster
made his tour through the West years ago, lie visited Spring-
field among other places, where great preparations had been
made to receive him. As the procession was going through
the town, a barefooted little darkey boy pulled the sleeve of
a man named T., and asked :
" * What the folks were all doing down the street?'
90 LINCOLN STORIES.
" ' Why, Jack,' was the reply, ' the biggest man in the
world is coming.'
" Now, there lived in Springfield a man by the name of
G. a very corpulent man. Jack darted off down the street,
but presently returned, with a very disappointed air.
" ' Well, did you see him?' inquired T.
" ' Yees,' returned Jack; ' but laws he ain't half as ~big
as old G: "
An Irish Soldier Who Wanted Something Stronger than Soda- Water.
Upon Mr. Lincoln's return to Washington, after the cap-
ture of Richmond, a member of the Cabinet asked him if it
would be proper to permit Jacob Thompson to slip through
Maine in disguise, and embark from Portland. The Presi-
dent, 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. Lin-
coln, " let me tell you a story.
" There was an Irish soldier here last Summer, who wanted
something to drink stronger than water, and stopped at a
drug-shop, where he espied a soda-fountain.
" ' Mr. Doctor,' said he, ' give me, plase, a glass of soda-
wather, an' if yees can put in a few drops of whisky unbe-
known to any one, I'll be obleeged.'
" Now," said Mr. Lincoln, " if Jake Thompson is per-
mitted to go through Maine unbeknown to any one, what's
the harm? So don't have him arrested."
WHITE-HOUSE INCIDENTS. 91
Looking Out for Breakers How the President Illustrated It.
In a time of despondency, some visitors were telling the
President of the " breakers " so often seen ahead " this
time surely coming." " That," said he, " suggests the story
of the school-boy, who never could pronounce the names
' Shadrach,' ' Meshach,' and ' Abednego.' He had been
repeatedly whipped for it without effect. Sometime after-
wards he saw the names in the regular lesson for the day.
Putting his finger upon the place, he turned to his next
neighbor, an older boy, and whispered, ' Herer comes those
" tormented Hebrews" again /' "
Work Enough for Twenty Presidents Illustrated by a Story
About Jack Chase.
A farmer from one of the border counties went to the
President on a certain occasion with the complaint that the
Union soldiers in passing his farm had helped themselves
not only to hay but to his horse; and he hoped the proper
officer would be required to consider his claim immediately.
" Why, my good sir," replied Mr. Lincoln, " if I should
attempt to consider every such individual case, I should
find work enough for twenty Presidents !
" In my early days, I knew one Jack Chase, who was a
lumberman on the Illinois, and, when steady and sober, the
best raftsman on the river. It was quite a trick twenty-
five years ago to take the logs over the rapids, but he was
skillful with a raft, and always kept her straight in the chan-
nel. Finally a steamer was put on, and Jack he's dead
now, poor fellow ! was made captain of her. He always
used to take the wheel going through the rapids. One
day, when the boat was plunging and wallowing along the
boiling current, and Jack's utmost vigilance was being
exercised to keep her in the narrow channel, a boy pulled
-92 LINCOLN STORIES.
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 !' '
Philosophy of Canes The Kind Lincoln Made and Carried
When a Boy.
A gentleman calling at the White House one evening
carried a cane, which, in the course of conversation, attracted
the President's attention. Taking it in his hand, he said:
" I always used a cane when I was a boy. It was a freak
of mine. My favorite one was a knotted beech stick, and I
carved the head myself. There's a mighty amount of char-
acter in sticks. Don't you think so? You have seen these
fishing-poles that fit into a cane ? Well, that was an old
idea of mine. Dogwood clubs were favorite ones with the
boys. I suppose they use them yet. Hickory is too heavy,
unless you get it from a young sapling. Have you ever
noticed how a stick in one's hand will change his appear-
ance? Old women and witches wouldn't look so without
sticks. Meg Merrilies understands that."
Stories Illustrating Lincoln's Memory.
Mr. Lincoln's memory was very remarkable. At one of
the afternoon receptions at the White House, a stranger
shook hands with him, and, as he did so, remarked, casually,
that he was elected to Congress about the time Mr. Lin-
coln's term as representative expired, which happened
many years before.
"Yes," said the President, "you are from ," men-
tioning the state. " I remember reading of your election
in a newspaper one morning on a steamboat going down to
WttlTE-HOUSE INCIDENTS. 9$
Ac' another time a gentleman addressed him, saying, " I
presume, Mr. President, that you have forgotten me?"
" No," was the prompt reply; " your name is Flood. I
saw you last, twelve years ago, at ," naming the place
and the occasion. " I am glad to see," he continued, " that
the Flood flows on."
Subsequent to his re-election a deputation of bankers
from various sections were introduced one day by the Secre-
tary of the Treasury. After a few moments of general con-
versation, Mr. Lincoln turned to one of them, and said:
" Your district did not give me so strong a vote at the last
election as it did in 1860."
'" I think, sir, that you must be mistaken," replied the
banker. " I have the impression that your majority was
considerably increased at the last election."
" No," rejoined the President, "you fell off about six
hundred votes." Then taking down from the book-case the
official canvass of 1860 and 1864, he referred to the vote of
the district named, and proved to be quite right in his
The Hon. Mr. Hubbard, of Connecticut, once called upon
the President in reference to a newly invented gun, concern-
ing which a committee had been appointed to make a report.
The "report " was sent for, and when it came in was found
to be of the most voluminous description. Mr. Lincoln
glanced at it, and said : " I should want a new lease of life
to read this through!" Throwing it down upon the table,
he added: " Why can't a committee of this kind occasion-
ally exhibit a grain of common sesse? If I send a man to
buy a horse for me, I expect him to tell me his points not
how many hairs there are in his tail.
S4 LINCOLN STORIES.
Lincoln's Confab with a Committee on " Grant's Whisky."
Just previous to the fall of Vicksburg, a self-constituted
committee, solicitous for the morale of our armies, took it
upon themselves to visit the President and urge the removal
of General Grant.
In some surprise Mr. Lincoln inquired, " For what rea-
" Why," replied the spokesman, " he drinks too much
, " Ah!" rejoined Mr. Lincoln, dropping his lower lip.
"By the way, gentlemen, can either of you tell me where
General Grant procures his whisky? because, if I can find
out, I will send every general in the field a barrel of it!"
A "Pretty Tolerable Respectable Sort of a Clergyman."
Some one was discussing, in the presence of Mr. Lincoln,
the character of a time-serving "Washington clergyman.
Said Mr. Lincoln to his visitor:
" I think you are rather hard upon Mr. . He reminds
me of a man in Illinois, who was tried for passing a count-
erfeit bill. It was in evidence that before passing it he had
taken it to the cashier of a bank and asked his opinion of
the bill, and he received a very prompt reply that it was a
counterfeit. His lawyer, who had heard the evidence to be
brought against his client, asked, him, just before going into
court, k Did you take the bill to the cashier of the bank
and ask him if it was good?'
" ' I did,' was the reply.
" ' "Well, what was the reply of the cashier?'
" The rascal was in a corner, but he got out of it in this
fashion: ' He said it was a pretty tolerable, respectable sort
of a bill.' " Mr. Lincoln thought the clergyman was " a
pret-ty tolerable, respectable sort of a clergyman."
WHITE-HOUSE INCIDENTS. 97
How Lincoln Opened the Eyes of an Inquisitive Visitor.
Mr. Lincoln sometimes had a very effective way of dealing
vith men who troubled him with questions. A visitor cnce
asked him how many men the Rebels had in the field.
The President replied, very seriously, "Twelve hundred
thousand, according to the best authority."
The interrogator blanched in the face, and ejaculated,
" Good Heavens!"
" Yes, sir, twelve hundred thousand no doubt of it.
You see, all of our generals, when they get whipped, say
the enemy outnumbers them from three or five to one, and
I must believe them. We have four hundred thousand men
in the field, and three times four make twelve. Don't you
Minnehaha and Minneboohoo!
Some gentlemen fresh from a "Western tour, during a call
at the White House, referred in the course of conversation
to a body of water in Nebraska, which bore an Indian name
signifying "weeping water." Mr. Lincoln instantly re-
sponded: "As ' laughing water,' according to Longfellow,
is ' Minnehaha,' this evidently should be ' Minneboohoo.' ' :
Meeting of President Lincoln and the Artist, Carpenter.
F. B. Carpenter, the celebrated artist and author of the
well-known painting of Lincoln and his Cabinet issuing the
Emancipation Proclamation, describes his first meeting
with the President, as follows:
" Two o'clock found me one of the throng pressing toward
the center of attraction, the ' blue ' room. From the thresh-
old of the ' crimson ' parlor as I passed, I had a glimpse
98 LINCOLN STOEIES.
of the gaunt figure of Mr. Lincoln in the distance, haggard-
looking, dressed in black, relieved only by the prescribed
white gloves; standing, it seemed tome, solitary and alone,
though surrounded by the crowd, bending low now and
then in the process of hand- shaking, and responding half
abstractedly to the well-meant* greetings of the miscel-
"!N\3ver shall I forget the electric thrill which went
through my whole being at this instant. I seemed to see
lines radiating from every part of the globe, converging to
a focus at the point where that plain, awkward-looking man
stood, and to hear in spirit a million prayers, ' as the sound
of many waters,' ascending in his behalf. Mingled with
supplication I could discern a clear symphony of triumph
and blessing, swelling with an ever-increasing volume. It
was the voice of those who had been bondmen and bond-
women, and the grand diapason swept up from the coming
" It was soon my privilege, in the regular succession, to
take that honored hand. Accompanying the act, my name
and profession were announced to him in a low tone by one
of the assistant private secretaries, who stood by his side.
Retaining my hand, he looked at me inquiringly for an
instant, and said, ' Oh, yes ; I know ; this is the painter.'
Then straightening himself to his full height, with a twinkle
of the eye, he added, playfully, " Do you think, Mr. C ,
that you can make a handsome picture of me? 1 emphasizing
strongly the last word. Somewhat confused at this point-
blank shot, uttered in a tone so loud as to attract the
attention of those in immediate proximity, I made a ran-
dom reply, and took the occasion to ask if I could see him
in his study at the close of the reception. To this he re-
sponded in the peculiar vernacular of the "West, 1 1 reckon,'
resuming meanwhile the mechanical and traditional exer-
WHITE-HOUSE INCIDENTS. 99
cise of the hand which no President has ever yet been able
to avoid, and which, severe as is the ordeal, is likely to
attach to the position so long as the Republic endures."
An Apt Illustration.
At the "White House one day some gentlemen were pres-
ent from the West, excited and troubled about the com-
missions or omissions of the Administration. The President
heard them patiently, and then replied : " Gentlemen, sup-
pose 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
t 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 is 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."
More Light and Less Noise.
An editorial, in a New York journal, opposing Lincoln's
re-nomination, is said to have called out from him the fol-
lowing story: A traveler on the frontier found himself out
of his reckoning one night in a most inhospitable region.
A terrific thunder-storm came up, to add to his trouble.
He floundered along until his horse at length gave out.
The lightning afforded him the only clew to his way, but
the peals of thunder were frightful. One bolt, which seemed
to crash the earth beneath him, brought him to his knees.
100 LINCOLN STORIES.
By no means a praying man, his petition was short and to
the point " O Lord, if it is all the same to you, give us a
little more light and a little less noise!"
How Lincoln Browsed '' Around,
A party of gentlemen, among whom was a doctor of divinity
of much dignity of manner, calling at the White House
one day, was informed by the porter that the President
was at dinner, but that he would present their cards.
The doctor demurred at this, saying that he would call
again. " Edward " assured them that he thought it would
make no difference, and went in with the cards. In a few
minutes the President walked into the room, with a kindly
salutation, and a request that the friends would take seats.
The doctor expressed his regret that their visit was so ill,
timed, and that his Excellency was disturbed while at din-
ner. " Oh ! no consequence at all," said Mr. Lincoln r
good-naturedly. " Mrs. Lincoln is absent at present, and
when she is away, I generally ' browse ' around."
Lincoln Cutting Red Tape.
" Upon entering the President's office one afternoon,"
says a Washington correspondent, " I found Mr. Lincoln
busily counting greenbacks.
*" This, sir,' said he, 'is something out of my usual line;
but a President of the United States has a multiplicity of
duties not specified in the Constitution or acts of Congress.
This is one of them. This money belongs to a poor negro
who is a porter in the Treasury Department, at present
very bad with the small-pox. He is now in hospital, and
could not draw his pay because he could not sign his name.
I have been at considerable trouble to overcome the dim-
WHITE-HOUSE INCIDENTS. 101
culty and get it for him, and have at length succeeded in
cutting red tape, as you newspaper men say. I am now
dividing the money and putting by a portion labelled, in
an envelope, with my own hands, according to his wish ; '
and he proceeded to indorse the package very carefully."
No one witnessing the transaction could fail to appreciate
the goodness of heart which prompted the President of the
United States to turn aside for a time from his weighty
cares to succor one of the humblest of his fellow-creatures
in sickness and sorrow.
One of Lincoln's Drolleries.
Concerning a drollery of President Lincoln, this story is
" During the Rebellion an Austrian Count applied to
President Lincoln for a position in the army. Being intro-
duced by the Austrian Minister, he needed, of course, no
further recommendation ; but, as if fearing that his im-
portance might not be duly appreciated, he proceeded to
explain that he was a Count ; that his family were ancient
and highly respectable; when Lincoln, with a merry
twinkle in his eye, tapping the aristocratic lover of titles
on the shoulder, in a fatherly way, as if the man had con-
fessed to some wrong, interrupted in a soothing tone,
'Never mind; you shall be treated with just as much
consideration for all that ? ' "
Anecdote Showing the Methods by which Lincoln and Stanton
Dismissed Applicants for Office.
A gentleman states in a Chicago journal: In the Winter
of 1864, after serving three years in the Union army, and
being honorably discharged, I made application for the post
102 LINCOLN STORIES.
sutlership at Point Lookout. My father being interested,
we made application to Mr. Stanton, then Secretary of War.
"We obtained an audience, and was ushered into the presence
of the most pompous man I ever met. As I entered he
waved his hand for me to stop at a given distance from him,
and then put these questions, viz.:
" Did you serve three years in the army?"
" I did, sir."
" Were you honorably discharged?"
" I was, sir?"
" Let me see your discharge ?"
I gave it to him. He looked it over, and then said:
" Were you ever wounded ?"
I told him yes, at the battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1861.
He then said: " I think we can give this position to a
soldier who has lost an arm or leg, he being more deserving,''
and he then said that I looked hearty and healthy enough
to serve three years more. Pie would not give me a chance
to argue my case. The audience was at an end. He waved
his hand to me. I was then dismissed from the august
presence of the Honorable Secretary of War.