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after a hard day's work, if I can find some good excuse for saving a man's life.”
To a man who had applied for a pardon for his son, condemned to be shot. A direct pardon could not be given, under the circumstances, but the president had written :
“ Job Smith is not to be shot until further orders from me,”—and the anxious father had begged for something more definite. Said Mr. Lincoln.
"Well, my old friend, I see you are not very well acquainted with
If your son never looks on death till further orders come from me, to shoot him, he will live to be a great deal older than Methusaleh."
LETTER TO J. G. HODGES, FRANKFORT, KY., APRIL 4, 1864, CONCERNING
EMANCIPATION. “ Was it
possible to lose the
nation and yet preserve the Con. stitution ? By general law, life and limb must be protected ; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life, but a life is never wisely given to save a limb."
A great deal has been said of
Lincoln's keen appreciation of the wit and humor of others and of his own faculty for employing wit and humor, and even broad burlesque as an orator and in conversation. It is very nearly true, however, that he rarely told a joke or even a good story for its own sake,-for mere amusement. Their value to him was rather illustrative, or to sharpen the point of an argument, or to expose a weakness in the position taken by an adversary. To this is due the fact that so few of his good hits have been preserved
can be made to present their original quality apart from the
persons and the circumstances. No special effort has here been made, therefore, to collect the shrewd, or dry, or caustic utterances which made some men laugh and others wince.
He found yet another important use in his faculty for enjoying the ludicrous and of being amused by the grotesque. It brought him exceedingly helpful relief.
One morning, in 1862, when the hearts of all men were heavy, an Ohio Congressman, personal friend, called to
him with reference to important affairs. Before making any other response, the president began to tell a humorous story that seemed to fit and his friend arose at once exclaiming :
“ Mr. President, I did not come here, this morning, to hear stories ; it is too serious a time !" “ Ashley,"
quickly, "sit down! I respect you, as an earnest, sincere man.
You cannot be more anxious than I have been, constantly, since the beginning of the war; and I say to you, now, that were it not for this occasional vent, I should die!”
Strictly in keeping with this is the otherwise incongruous, inexplicable fact that when he called his cabinet together to read to them his draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, he began by reading to them a chapter from “ Artemas Ward, His Book," and laughing heartily at its crude grotesqueries. At the end of that chapter, his overstrained mind had recovered its tone.
Mr. Lincoln once remarked to Mr. Noah Brooks :
“I remember a good story when I hear it, but I never invented any.