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John Barr.

Wit and humor of American statesmen; a collection from various sources classified under appropriate subject headings online

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Online LibraryJohn BarrWit and humor of American statesmen; a collection from various sources classified under appropriate subject headings → online text (page 4 of 10)
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but I'm dinged ef I know which un got
away.' "



An incident that has probably never appeared
in print was related by Schuyler Colfax regarding
Abraham Lincoln. It was during the dark days
of 1863, on the evening of a public reception
given at the White House. The foreign le-
gations were there gathered about the Presi-
dent.

A young English nobleman was just being
presented to the President. Inside the door,
evidently overawed by the splendid assemblage,



70 Wiit ano Ibumor

was an honest-faced old farmer who shrank
from the passing crowd until he and the plain-
faced old lady clinging to his arm were pressed
back to the wall. The President, tall and in a
measure stately in his personal presence, looking
over the heads of the assembly said to the Eng-
lish nobleman : " Excuse me, my Lord, there's
an old friend of mine."

Passing backward to the door Mr. Lincoln
said as he grasped the old farmer's hand :
"Why, John, I'm glad to see you. I haven't
seen you since you and I made rails for old Mrs.

in Sangamon County in 1847. How are

you ? ' '

The old man turned to his wife with quivering
lip, and without replying to the President's saluta-
tion said: "Mother, he's just the same Old
Abe."



The story is told that the late R. B. Hayes
had for a neighbor in Ohio a testy old fellow
who ran a small truck farm. He was honest
and upright, and Mr. Hayes held him in high
esteem, notwithstanding his lack of the social
amenities and respect for persons. On one of
his visits to Ohio during the presidency, he
passed the old man's farm and found him plant-



of american Statesmen 71

ing potatoes in a patch near the road. The
President, being somewhat of a farmer himself,
noticed some peculiarity in his neighbor's style
of planting, and after a few minutes ' chat, he
called attention to it, and the old man argued
the point awhile.

"After all," concluded the President, "I
don't think you are doing it as it should be
done for the best results."

The old farmer rested his arm on the fence,
and looked steadily at Mr. Hayes.

"They ain't neither one of us," he said,
" above havin' fault found with us ; but ef you
just go on presidentin' the United States your
way, an' I go on plantin' pertaters my way, 1
guess we won't be no wuss off in the end."

Mr. Hayes accepted the suggestion pleasantly
and passed on.



There's a good story about a rural member of
the Wisconsin Legislature. The old man was
elected to the State Senate from one of the lumber
counties, and was proud of the honor. When
the Legislature met in Madison, Senator Blank
was daily in his seat before the time for calling
the Senate to order, and spread the Madison
Journal before him to read the news of the day.



12 IRHit ano Ibumor

One morning after the chaplain's prayer while
the Clerk of the Senate was reading the journal
of the proceedings of the previous day, a gentle-
man arose and said :

"Mr. President, I move to dispense with the
reading of the journal." Senator Blank quietly
folded his Madison Journal, arose and said :

" Mr. President I move also to dispense with
the reading of the Times, the Inter- Ocean, and
all other papers. There should be no distinction
against the Journal.'"



It was at a banquet in Washington, given to a
large body of Congressmen, mostly from the
rural districts. The tables were elegant, and it
was a scene of fairy splendor, so to speak ; but
on one table there were no decorations but palm
leaves.

1 ' Here, ' ' said a Congressman to the head
waiter, " why don't you put them things on our
tables too ? " pointing to the plants.

The head waiter didn't know he was a Con-
gressman.

"We cain't do it, boss," he whispered con-
fidentially ; " dey's mostly Congressmen at all de
tables 'ceptin' dat one, an' if we put pa'ms on
dere tables dey take um for celery an' eat um



of Bmencan Statesmen 73

all up sho. 'Deed dey would, boss. We
knows 'em."

******

" Even a statesman is picked up sometimes,"
remarked the Congressman to a crowd of
listeners. "On one occasion I was going over
my district to get posted, and in my rambles I
ran across an old fellow away up on the head
waters of a creek. He was hoeing corn in a
field near the road, and I stopped to talk with
him.

" 'Good -morning,' I said pleasantly.

" ' Morning,' he responded, but never stopped
his hoeing.

" * Right nice looking field,' I remarked.

" ' Might be wuss,' he replied, still hoeing.

"'Excuse me,' I ventured, 'but I'm the
member of Congress from this district.'

" ' Air you ? ' he asked, still hoeing. ' I voted
for you.'

" ' I'm much obliged, I'm sure,' I said, ' I'm
up here now taking a look over the country/

" 'Well, I hain't no objection,' he said, still
hoeing, ' ef you don't take nothin' else,' and he
looked at me so suspiciously that I bade him
good-day and rode on."

******

In Portland, Maine, they tell a good story



74 Wit ano "Ibumor

about Senator Eugene Hale and Governor
Henry B. Cleaves. They were billed to speak
in an interior village one evening, and forced to
ride quite a distance in a stage coach. The stage
was of the genuine old fashion, and the driver
was of the typical sort, ready to do anything for
accommodation. On this occasion a part of the
freight put on top of the stage was a crate con-
taining two calves, each about four weeks old.
They made the night resonant with their bleat-
ing as the stage trundled over the rough country
roads. At last they drew up at a little village
post-office, and an old gentleman came hobbling
out to meet the driver and exchange a word
with him. The bleating of the calves kept up
and the old gentleman looked u^ quizzically at
the driver and said: "Well, Dan, you've
got your speakers on top of the stage to-night, I
see." The roar of laughter that followed from
the interior of the coach startled the old gentle-
man, and when the familiar features of the
Republican candidate for Governor smiled out
at the half open door, he fled inside the post-
office, covered with confusion.

H= ^ >fc * * *

Last winter in Washington an Indiana man
of some prominence in his county politics, but
withal a good deal of a yap, met a number of



of Bmcncan statesmen

statesmen and on better su quaintant e he joined
them one night in the national game.

He hung to it nobly for several hours, and
went to his boarding house a fman< ial mreck.

The next night with a reimbursed exchequer,
he tackled the game again, and went to his
boarding house after it was over in much the
same fix as the previous night.

The third night he went after it again, and
the statesmen were tickled beyond expression by
the soft mark that the gods had put in their
path, and the Hoosier went to his
house feeling no better because he was getting
used to it.

On the fourth night he was there again, but
he refused to take his place at the board when
called.

"Come on/' coaxed the hungry crowd.
" Nice half dollars for entrees and jack-DOtS for
dessert. Come on."

■• No, gentlemen," he said with a firm
of Ins head ami a new grip on hisp
$i no more for me, thanks. 1 may be from
Indiana, but I'm no d d fool in other re-
spects."

******

One day, said a member of Congress, I was
away off in one of the back counties of n.\



76 IWlit ano Ibumor

trict, repairing fences and doing some mission-
ary work incidental to the campaign, when I
saw a woman sitting on the roadside watching a
man splitting rails a hundred feet further up the
hill.

" Good-morning," I said, stopping my horse.

She returned the salutation, and the man kept
on with his work.

"Stranger in these parts?" she inquired,
after I had made a few inquiries as to health,
crops, and other matters of interest to a man
when he is a candidate.

"Partly," I replied; "I live in one of the
lower counties."

" Air you a drummer? " she asked.

I laughed.

" Do I look like one? " I asked.

" No, not egsactly ; more like a preacher."

"But I'm not," and I laughed again.

" I knowed it," she said, confidently.

"How?"

"Preachers don't pack their bottles in their
outside pockets," she remarked, sententiously.

I took mine out somewhat guiltily, and
handed it to her.

"Oh, Bill," she called to the man splitting
rails.

" Who is he? " inquired William.



of Bmcrican Statesmen 77

She turned to me before answering.

" What do ye do for a livin' ? " she asked.

"I'm a member of Congress," I said, blush-
ing at my own greatness.

She gave a long, low whistle.

"Bill," she called, to the man up the lull,
"he don't do nothin' fer a livin' ; he's a mem-
ber of Congress." William came down the
hill, and there were three drinks less in the
bottle as I rode on.



One of the best men in Stafford County, Va.,
was running for Supervisor of the county, and
as usual when a really good man runs for office,
there was a vigorous opposition to him. Some
of it was expected, but when one ignorant, but
influential old fellow came out against the candi-
date, the friends of both parties were surprised,
and one of the candidates' supporters immedi-
ately went to see the old man.

"Is it actually true that you are against our
man for Supervisor?" asked the friend when
he had led up to the point.

"In course I am," responded the old man
firmly.

" But he is one of the best men in the whole
county," argued the friend.



78 matt ano Ibumoc

"I ain't doubting that at all, only I can't
vote fer him."

"Why not?"

" 'Cause I won't vote fer no man under them
circumstances."

"Under what circumstances?" inquired the
friend in the greatest astonishment, for up to
that time no "circumstances" had appeared in
the campaign.

"Why, wantin' two offices at once, like he
does," explained the kicker. "I'm willing to
vote fer him for Super, but I'll be derned ef
I'm goin' to vote fer him fer Visor, and you can
tell him so ef you want to."

Thereupon the friend of the candidate organ-
ized an individual educational campaign, and
by delicate diplomacy brought the old man up
to the trough in good shape.

******

There is a good story about Mr. J. Sterling
Morton illustrating his free-trade tendency. He
was talking to an audience of farmers one day,
and he related a dream which had come to him
the night before, when as it seemed to him he
was in the lower regions. Everything and
everybody were burning except a number of
bodies hanging in a row. He asked his Sa-
tanic Majesty why these bodies were not com-



ot Bmertcan Statesmen 79

bustible. "Oh," was the reply, "they are

some farmers who did not know enough I

for tariff reform, and they are actually too green

to burn."



A mountain member of the Kentucky I
lature had fallen into the hands of the Leg
tive wags. He couldn't make a sj>ee< h, and of
course they were not to be satisfied until they
had forced him to make an attempt at it. The
occasion finally came, when in response to a
unanimous call he took the floor.

"Mr. Speaker," he said, in a shaking \
u I don't know how to make a speech. 1 never
made one in my life, and as I stand here I
this distinguished body now, my pants are rat-
tling like the leaves of the forests," and at this
point his trembling knees gave way under him
and he sank into his (hair.



It is characteristic of a government like ours
that its representative assemblies should include
some men whose vocabulary must be se\
strained to equal that of their better-edw
fellow-members. From the Princeton R
we glean a few rich specimens of legislative
mistakes :



80 1Utt and Ibumor

On one occasion a pugnacious member of the
majority in a certain Legislature listened as long
as he could to the attack of a minority member
upon his party, and then broke out with, " I
warn the member on the minority side of the
House that he shall not dare to come in here
and shake his shibboleth over our heads." The
leader of the majority was pained that such a
mistake had been made, and knowing well him-
self the difference between shibboleths and
shillalahs, he strode up to the member and ex-
claimed : " Confound the likes of ye ! Don't
you know enough to hold your tongue ? Why
do you put on foreign airs? You don't know
the Alpha and Omega of your own language."

Another member spoke thus of a bill : ' ' Mr.
Speaker, this is a party bill, and I ask my party
friends to stand by me and help me to pass it."

On another occasion, when the Assembly
showed signs of weariness, he announced :
" Mr. Speaker, I will now withdraw all my
further remarks on this bill."

A third member commenced to speak against
a bill affecting some of his property: "Mr.
Speaker, I arose in a quasi capacity." Here a
colleague pulled his coat-tail. The member
shook him off, and began again : " I arose in
a quasi capacity." Again came a jerk at his



of amcrtcan Statesmen 8i






coat-tail, and in a hoarse whisper the coUeag
was heard to say : ''Whist! come off wi


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Online LibraryJohn BarrWit and humor of American statesmen; a collection from various sources classified under appropriate subject headings → online text (page 4 of 10)