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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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pine forests, stopping at every cabin "to pass
the time of day." He kisses all the children,
asks for a "snack" to eat, and when the
farmer's wife offers him butter he always pre-
fers sorghum on his bread. When night over-
takes him he "puts up" at the nearest farm-
house, no matter how uninviting it may be, and
when he goes to bed holds out his ragged trous-
ers to his host and says :

" I snagged my pants in the brush to-day and
I'd be under everlasting obligations if your
good wife would mend them for me."

Of course the woman would sit up all night
to patch the garments of a United States Sena-
tor, and she puts in her prettiest stitches, but he
rips off the patch in a day or two and plays the
same game in the next county. The name of
the women in Florida who have mended Senator
Call's pants is legion, and it is the proudest
event in their lives.



of American Statesmen

During the Forty-Sixth Congress, TaU

Maryland was called out of the House o;.-
by a lady who had forwarded a card to him.
When he reached the reception-room she came
rushing towards him, telling him her Dame,
exclaiming: "Mr. Talbot,] am from
land. I am forty-one years old and my ds
ter is twenty-one. Neither one of us h*
had a Government position."

" Madam," replied Mr. Talbot, " m what p.irt
of Maryland do you reside ? ' '

She then gave her address in Baltimore. Mr
Talbot brightened up saving, " You are very
fortunate, madam. The Constitution of the
United States provides that ea» h
shall give either mother or daughter an
when the mother is forty-one and the daoghta
twenty-one years old, and that each district is
entitled to such a position. All the mfiiibfll
of the Maryland delegation have fillet! the
places allotted to them under this provision with
the exception of Colonel McLane, in I
district you reside. He has not availed hii
of this constitutional privilege.
Lane would be delighted to
you or youv daughter a place."

Mr. Talbot then returned to the chamber,
the same card went to Rep;-



94 Wiit ano Ijumor

The old gentleman was absent about ten minutes.
When he returned he walked up to Mr. Talbot
and said : " Fred Talbot, you sent that woman
to me, and you know there is no constitutional
provision giving places to mother and daughter
whose ages aggregate sixty-two ! The worst of
it is that she insisted that I was deceiving her
when I assured her that she was mistaken. She
replied that Mr. Talbot was too nice a man to
lie!"

******

A Western member of Congress, who isn't
much on society, but whose wife is, came home
one afternoon in Washington and found her just
returning from a round of visits.

"Well, my dear," he inquired, "where have
you been to-day ? ' '

"Out making party calls," she replied, with
very apparent satisfaction.

" Party calls? " he repeated in puzzled inter-
rogation.

" Yes, Colonel, party calls."

He studied over it for a minute.

"Now, look here, Maria," he said, earnestly,
" let up on that. You attend to society, and
leave the party to me. You don't know any-
thing about politics, even if you are in Wash-
ington with me, and if you get to doing any



ot Hmerlcati statesmen

party work you'll make a tangle of it lore."
And then Maria gave the Colonel a laugh that
made him wonder what he was there tor.
******
When Jefferson was running tor election, great
fear of him was manifested among the Northern
Federalists, who firmly believed that he
little better than Antichrist In a town in Con-
necticut where a pious old Federalist lady lived
it was believed that if the Federalist] were
overthrown, and the Jefferson Democrats CUM
into power, the Christian religion would be put
down and atheism proclaimed, and among the
first persecutions would be the destrut tion
Bibles. The lady referred to irai
wrought up at this prospect, and cast al>out in
her mind how she should preserve he
the Scriptures in the general de tTUCl hi

length it occurred to her to

S , the only Democrat of her

ance, and throw herself upon his

accordingly took her family Bible to hio

telling him that she had heard of the

of the Jefferson ians, asked him to b

her. The Squire attemptC

that her fears were groundless, but s

panic stricken to Ik* convinced At last be

said,



96 "©ait ano tmmor

" My good woman, if all the Bibles are to be
destroyed, what is the use of your bringing
yours to me ? That will not save it when it is
found."

1 ' Oh, yes, ' ' she pleaded with a charming
burst of trust. ' ' You take it ; it will be perfectly
safe. They'll never think of looking in the
house of a Democrat for a Bible."



In one of the conventions held to promote
woman's rights a lady orator, led away by en-
thusiasm, exclaimed, ''It is well known that
Solomon owed his wisdom to the number of his
wives."

Another speaker, going further still, said
there were very many positions in different
departments of the public service where women
could with entire propriety be employed, es-
pecially certain positions in the navy ; to which
a rather gruff nautical voice among the audience
responded, sotto voce : "Of course. Lot's wife,
you know, was an old salt."

******

There lived in Springfield in i860 an Irish
day-laborer named John McCarty, an intense
Democrat. Some time after the presidential
election, Mr. Lincoln was walking along the



ot Hmerican Statesmen

public square, and John was shoveling out the
gutter. As the President-elect appro* bed,

McCarty rested on his shovel, ami holding out
his hand, said bluntly, — "An" so yer elected
Presidint, are ye? Faith, an' it wasn't by my
vote, at all, at all." " Well, yes, John," replied
Mr. Lincoln, shaking hands with John ve: •
dially, "the papers say I'm elected j but it
seems odd I should be, when you opposed me."
"Well, Misther Lincoln," said John, dropping
his voice lest some brother Democrat should hear
the confession, "I'm glad ye got it, after all.
It's moighty little pace I've had will Bid
votin' forninst ye; an' if ye'd been bate,
ha' driv me from the shanty as shure's the
worrold."



An ex-President of the United States r» ently
had occasion to attend his wife to the railway
station, preparatory to her setting out U]
long journey alone. " If you should happen to
need advice or assistance of any kind," t.
President advised his wife at parting, "
hesitate to call upon this gentleman
aisle; I like his looks," indicating a \
stranger, but one whose appearance and m
were such as to inspire trust. Thejournej



98 TWUt anD "fcumor

accomplished safely, and the wife had no occa-
sion to follow her husband's advice. But at an
evening reception shortly after her arrival in the
city of her destination, a man was presented to
her whom she at once recognized as her fellow-
traveler. She related the incident. " Will you
please tell your husband," said the man, "that
that is the first speech I ever heard of his that
meets with my hearty approval ? I belong to
the opposite party."



A pretty story is told of Mrs. Levi P. Mor-
ton's tact and courtesy quite equal to the tradi-
tion of Lady Washington's crushing a teacup on
purpose to relieve the embarrassment of the
guest who had inadvertently broken one of her
eggshell cups in his large and careless hand.
Mrs. Morton has a set of exquisitely painted
doylies from the atelier of a noted Paris artist.
One of her political dinner guests, after dipping
his fingers in the bowl, drew out the priceless
filmy square and crushed it into a ball trying to
dry his hands as he talked learnedly with his
hostess.

Mrs. Morton smiled with a serenity for which
it is hoped the recording angel will give her
credit, and said : " Such flimsy doylies are use-



of American Statesmen

less — let me give you another — but you
it's the fashion." And the grateful politicu
cepted the napkin and never knew his mistake.
******

It was during Cleveland's first incuinl •
The daughter of a lawyer prominent in a K
town had married an officer who, a few months
after the ceremony, had been detailed to a remote
post. The young wife, who had enjoyed .
of belleship in the semi-metropolitan commu-
nity in which she had been reared, felt as I
were about to be buried alive. Encouraged by
her husband and father she repaired to Wash-
ington to seek reprieve at headquarters.

" Fort Riley. Why that's a pretty good
tail, isn't it? " asked the President, to whom the
lady had stated her case.

"No, sir; it doesn't suit me at all."

"Shouldn't we try and be satisfied where we
are?" continued the Chief Magistrate, with a
patronizing smile.

"You might have been satisfied frith
Sheriff at Buffalo," came the pert retOl
you wanted to be the President of tl
States."

******

There is a story about Mrs. Julia Ward 1 ;
and Sumner that seems very ch



loo 1UU ano "fcumor

both. Mrs. Howe asked the great Senator to
dinner to meet Edwin Booth, and Sumner re-
plied in his starchiest, pouter-pigeon fashion :

" Madam, I do not believe that I care to meet
your friend Edwin Booth, estimable as he may-
be both in his calling and his character. I think
I have arrived at the point where one ceases to
take any interest in individuals."

"Why Charles," replied Mrs. Howe, with
intensity, "God hasn't gotten there yet."

# Jfc %i ^S >fc *

After discoursing at great length on the
emancipation of women, a young lady asked a
statesman :

11 Supposing women were admitted to govern
the affairs of the commonwealth, what post would
you assign to me?"

"The management of an institution for the
deaf and dumb. ' '

"Why that?"

"Because either those unfortunates would
learn to talk, or you would learn to keep quiet."
* * * * * *

If there is any one thing for which Ohio
statesmen are noted, it is gallantry to ladies trav-
eling by rail. It is related of a member of the
State Legislature that on taking the cars to re-



ot" Bmcncnn Statesmen 101

turn to Columbus, he espied a seal 6nl) |
filled by a well-dressed lady, [t is I

pose that the legislator was not - ,

one empty sitting, tor he at once marched I

seat, and in his most winning v, l iie

might trouble the lady so much as to occupy a

part of the seat. The lady, seeing a

near her, answered the question by in

over, and down sat the gentleman. The

gentleman found the lady to be

of a comely face, and at once comment

conversation with her. He talked oi

wrongs, and, without asking her opinion, kept

on talking about this, that, and the other al

a rate of speed as to give the lad]

reply, even if she had desired to reply.

talking for some time he looked towan I

and was surprised to notice that si

paying the slightest attention to hi

but was gazing abstractedly o

window. The member didn't like tl

affairs, and was silent for a mom<

repeating something about w.

desert air, began his i

finally asked a leading question in

nary tone. The lady did

thought the Solon, the lady i^ hard oi

He repeated his question in



102 iMit ano •frumor

and still no answer. Thinking he had offended
the lady in some way, he began to apologize and
kept it up until some one occupying a seat in
front of him, who had been a silent observer of
the scene, interrupted the apologizer by saying,
"Excuse me, sir, but that lady you have been
talking to so earnestly for some time past is deaf
and dumb, and has been so since her birth."
This thing leaked out, and on the member's ap-
pearing in his seat next day some one proposed
that he should be added to the Committee on
Deaf and Dumb Asylums.



President John Tyler took for his second wife,
in June, 1844, Miss Julia Gardiner, he being
then about fifty-five, and she some thirty-five
years younger. It is said that Henry A. Wise
and other Virginia friends endeavored to dis-
suade him from the match, and one of them told
him a story of a rich old James River planter
who called his body servant Tony into council
on the expediency of his marrying a miss in her
teens. Tony shook his head, saying, " Massa,
had you better ? ' '

"Yes, Tony," replied the infatuated planter
"why not? She is so beautiful that the sight
of her would make one rise from a sick bed to



ot Bmertcati Statesmen

marry her. I am old, to be sure, but L:
too old to make her happy."

" Yes, massa," diplomatically remarked I
"you is now in your prime, dat'a

when she is in her prime, where den, I
your prime be ? "

Mr. Tyler is said to have laughed . I
philosophy, but he nevertheless married
Gardiner, and the marriage proved aver]

one.

******

The little daughter of a Demo ratii candidate

for a local oftice in Saratoga I

when told that her father had got th<

tion, cried out, "Oh, mama, d -r die

of it?"

******

"I was making a trip through t: •
says Senator Tom Carter of Mo:
was introduced to the wife of a man w;
running for Congress. I wanted to be pl<
to her, so in order to start
quired :

" ■ So your husband is run
gress ? '

" ' Yes,' she replied.

" ' I suppose it keeps him DfCttJ
ventured.



104 Witt ano Dumor

" Yes,' was the very short reply.

1 ' This rather froze me, and somewhat dis-
couraged my attempts to be pleasant, but I came
to the front again with what I thought was a
humorous remark :

" ' I suppose he kisses all the babies in the
district.'

"This was unfortunate. She flared up an-
grily.

" ' Don't believe a word of it. He hasn't had
time to kiss his own babies for two months. ' ' '

Not long ago Senator Vest, in talking of Ma-
jor Dickinson, fell to discussing the vanities of
life.

"I once met a good old lady out West," said
he, "who evinced great surprise of a not very
complimentary sort when she met me.

" ' And so you're Senator Vest, the great Sena-
tor?' she asked.

" 'I'm Senator Vest,' I replied bowing.

" 'Well, well,' she exclaimed contemptuously,
'after all I've heard about you, I never'd a
thought it.' "

******

A certain bright woman was a great friend of
Governor Crittenden of Kentucky, although of



ot Bmertcan Statesmen

opposite political sentiments, and there *
ways a contact of flint and steel when the\
together. On one occasion, at her house, Mr.
Crittenden was speaking with enthusiasm ot the
neutrality policy adopted by the State. bin

P said it was a cowardly resort, when the

Senator rose to his feet and said :

" Madam, this is outrageous. You have no
State pride."

"Very true, sir," said she, " but I am full to
blushing with State shame."

******

An ignorant woman once said to a Northern
friend :

" Do you know your people take our
soldiers and boil their bodies ; make

u No, madam, 1 did D

" Well, they do. Now what do you think of
it?"

"Oh, I think it's a case of concentrated lie,
that's all."



A seemingly frivolous joke ifl
turned to profitable account in (
for example, one worked by Repl
Henry Smith, of the S©
upon the House Committee BOM. D



106 XUit and *>umor

should be explained that this committee is not
the one which has. charge of the pensions grow-
ing out of the civil war. Its functions are
limited to granting pensions to veterans and
widows of veterans of the Mexican, the Black
Hawk, and other somewhat ancient troubles.
One of its maxims is that no widow's pension
should be larger than $8 a month. This pro-
ceeds on the theory that any widow who sur-
vives a veteran of these wars must be a com-
paratively young woman, and that she must
have married the veteran in his dotage and
chiefly to get his pension. One day Smith,
who is a new member, appeared before the
committee, and in an incidental and smiling
way alluded to the $8 rule.

"That is a fine rule," said he in a guileless
way. " I sympathize with its purpose and be-
lieve it should stand ; but, just as a guarantee
of good faith, I am going to propose that we
amend it so that it shall read : ' Except in the
case of widows over a hundred years of age. ' ' '

The members of the committee are always
ready for a joke, and the amendment was
adopted with a unanimous laugh.

Thereupon Mr. Smith, with lightning-like
agility, whipped out of his pocket a bill to
grant a pension of Si 2 a month to a Mrs.



of Hmencan Statesmen

Hixon, of Clinton, Mich. She had just ]

her hundredth year. It wa> aol DC t
him to explain that her husband had sen
within one day of the time requisite to {

pension from the Pension Bureau insta

special act. The committee voted to re{>ort the

bill favorably without so much as a roll-cad.



U you have ever told a witty -
missed the point, you will sympathize with the
unfortunate heroine of the following recital in a

Washington newspaper :

Some weeks ago we published the wir
mark of a Mr. Martin who, with his •
Carpenter, occupies the room- on 1
where the late Senator Charles Sumner re
In brief, the story was that, while the
tlemen were tinkering with a refractory .
Mr. Carpenter told Mr. Martin t:
were not careful the whole front would tumble
in. Whereupon the latter replied t. . I
perfectly willing to have Sumner's mant-
on him. So much for the stOTj
partv a few evenings .
Martin in to a circle of friends to tr!l him
she had read something about him wrbik
West.



108 TWM ano Dumor

" What, pray? " he asked, with his sweetest
smile.

" Why, that story where you and your friend
were fixing your office grate," she said, in a
doubtful tone.

"Ah, that was a pretty good story, wasn't
it? You didn't think I was so brilliant, did
you?"

" That was just what was worrying me," she
replied, with considerable anxiety. "I've been
thinking of that story for a month and wonder-
ing what there was particularly funny in your
saying you wanted Mr. Sumner's mantelpiece
to fall on you."



CHAPTER VII

The Retort CourUi

When Col. Thomas Ochiltree was in I
gress he was popular, not only bei a
a prince of good fellows with all the world, but

for his ability to return a shaij
occasion seemed to demand qui* k wit .
ready tongue.

"Ochiltree," said a member to hi:..
with an impertinent sneer that . the

Colonel's sensibilities, " if I had your c he
be on top of the heap."

"You snipe, you," exclaimed the

"if you had my cheek and y

be kicked out of every decent pi

ThaddeilS Stevens pos^evsed the s.imr

and all members of the lh>".sc tell one
of an occurred e in \\ :
Speaker of the lb
ending in Stevens >a\
documents on which he hft
L08



no rat ano tmmor

the chair, and turning his back to the Speaker
in the most impolite way while passing furiously
up the aisle towards the cloak-room.

" Is the gentleman trying to show his con-
tempt for the Speaker ? " shouted that dignitary.

''No," thundered back Stevens turning
around and facing the wielder of the gavel :
"lam trying to conceal it ! "

******

It was at a meeting of a South Boston Demo-
cratic club prior to an election some years ago.
The hall was filled j sons of Erin largely pre-
dominated, and the air was appropriately
clouded with smoke from pipes of various ages,
colors and degrees of offensiveness. The ap-
pointing of a committee of five — for what pur-
pose need not appear — was in progress, and
nominations were being made all over the hall
with an enthusiastic indifference to the laws of
the much-lamented Mr. Cushing.

The acoustics of the room were not of the
best, and amid the clamor that greeted each
name presented it was extremely difficult to fol-
low the proceedings. At length a burly Irish-
man at the back of the hall jumped to his feet,
and waving a blackened clay pipe at arm's
length, shouted, in a voice that might have been
heard around the block,



ot Hmerican statesmen in

"Mr. Chairman ! "

All sounds in the hall came to an end.

ognition from the chairman was instanta: I
11 Mr. Chairman, oi move that May

be put on the committee."

"Phwat committee is thot?"

voice from the other side of the room.
" Dom'd av oi know, but oi move thot V.

O'Brien be put on it."

******

The famous Thad Stevens had a col
ant in Washington named Matilda, who one
Sunday morning smashed a large Al the

buffet. " What have you broken now, j
black idiot?" exclaimed her master. M
meekly responded : " 'Tain't de fo'th com:.
mentj bress de Lawd."

******

President Hayes was a total abstainer.
State dinners, otherwise very elegant and
were served without wines. The only i
sion to conviviality was the Roman p
flavored with Jamaica rum. EvartS m
tomed to allude to this COUTM
saving station."

*****

At another time risir • .ally



112 van anD ibumor

the guests at a Thanksgiving dinner, Evarts be-
gan : ' < You have been giving your attention to
a turkey stuffed with sage. You are now about
to consider a sage stuffed with turkey."

In Covington, Ky., lives the Hon. Theodore
F. Hallam, an able and witty lawyer, whose
misfortune it was to have his friends constantly
making play upon his name. Most men whose
names can in any way be punned or played
upon have suffered from every possible variation
of such play, until it has become wearisome and
exasperating. Hallam had borne allusions with-
out end to the " Middle Ages," "Constitu-
tional Law," etc., when one day, at Washing-
ton city, he was introduced to Governor Hogg,
of Texas. "Hallam? Hallam?" queried the
Governor. "Are you the original?" "No,
Governor Hogg," said Hallam. "Are you?"

Upon one occasion when Henry Clay and
Tom Corwin were both members of the United
States Senate, the Kentuckian visited the room
of the Ohioan to urge him to go for a certain
measure, which the latter was little inclined to
support. The discussion waxing rather warm,
Harry of the West, rising to his full height,



ot Bmertcan 5tateamcn ua

brought down his fist with full ton c I

size the remark, "By , Tom, it most

shall be so." The blow upon the tabic : ....

everything in the room rattle, and its CX I upant,

giving his visitors one of his peculiar!]

looks, quietly remarked : "Look here, Mr. Clay,

you may abuse me as much as you |

I'll be hanged if I'll allow you or any othci

to break my furniture."

******

One day Bourke Cockran was telling a
on the floor of the House — he was standing in
one of the aisles — when Mr. Peine, the 1'opulist
Congressman from Colorado, walked up
said :

" Excuse me, Mr. Cockran, 1 have a let-
introduction to you."

"I can do nothing for you," responded the
New York Congressman. " All the :.
and page places are filled."

******

Senator Evarts was a
diner-out and giver of most elaborate ai d i
dinners himself. To a lady who
prise that one of such slendei
physique could endure -
varying viands and different



114 XUit am> Dumot

that it was not so much the different wines that
gave him trouble as the indifferent ones.



General Grant was popularly supposed to be
habitually grave, reserved, and taciturn, but on
occasion was very vivacious in conversation,
with a keen sense of dry quiet humor.

One evening, after a stag dinner at the White
House, the company assembled in the library to
smoke. Talk fell upon the happiest period of
life — childhood, youth, manhood, age.

Grant listened, but said nothing till asked for
his opinion.

" Well," he replied after a pause, " I believe
I would like to be born again," which indicated
that he had found existence enjoyable all the
way through.

******

One of the last as well as one of the neatest
hits made by General Butler, occurred during
the famous "dead-lock" on the Civil Rights
Bill. The question of adjournment was under
consideration, and General Butler had stepped
over to Mr. Randall's desk for a private consul-
tation. Butler favored a Sunday session. Ran-
dall opposed.

" Bad as I am, I have some respect for God's



of American Statesmen lis

day," said the Democrat, "ami I don't think it
proper to hold a session of Congress on that
day."

"Oh, pshaw," responded Butler, "don't the
Bible say that it is lawful to pull your ox
out of a pit on the Sabbath day? You have
seventy-three asses on your side of this 1 1
and I want to see them safely out of this dm h
before to-morrow."



When Evarts was Secretary of State in the
Cabinet of President Hayes, the strugg.
places in the diplomatic service nras very I I
As he was leaving the elevator at the i
very busy day, he said the conveyaiM e
noon had "taken up a very large colta turn tor
foreign missions"; and when asked what had
been done, he replied, "Many tailed, but few
chosen ! ' '

******

Two gentlemen, well known for quicknc
wit, one a politician, the other a .
were at a friend's house in the country, U
Sunday were of course, to go to chun h. The
former said to the clergyman. "Come


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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 5 of 10)