« AnteriorContinuar »
his election to the Presidency the great statesman and orator was engaged in delivering a totally uninspired lecture on “Discoveries, Inventions, and Improvements in towns near Springfield, and in Springfield itself on Washington's Birthday in the fateful year of 1860. There was little in this lecture to attract the slightest attention; and while it may have given satisfaction among neighbors, it could never have added to his fame. when he had the opportunity of an engagement to lecture on political subjects in this same month of February, he made what is now known as the “great address " at Cooper Union. Soon after this came his nomination, then his election to the Presidency of the United States; and with these events he may be said to have
resumed his true literary career, for (as I have said) his style was at its best only when he was dealing with a cause in which his whole heart was enlisted.
By way of contrast to what has passed and is to come, let us cull some of the passages in which shone Lincoln's wit and humor. How pleasing it is to know that his melancholy nature, his burdened spirit,
refreshed with glimpses-often storms-of mirth! They say that to see Lincoln laugh was an amazing sight.
The humor of which we learn so much from those who heard him tell his quaint and often Rabelaisian stories
out sharply and roughly in one of his congressional speeches, in which he referred with grim sarcasm to General Cass's military record
as used for political ammunition. Here are some later touches of his wit: “The plainest print cannot be read through a gold eagle.” “If you think you can slander a woman into loving you, or a man into voting for you, try it till you are satisfied.” Again: "Has Douglas the exclusive right in this country to be on all sides of all questions?” Again: "In his numerous speeches now being made in Illinois, Senator Douglas regularly argues against the doctrine of the equality of men; and while he does not draw the conclusion that the superiors ought to enslave the inferiors, he evidently wishes his hearers to draw that conclusion. He shirks the responsibility of pulling the house down, but he digs under it that it may fall of its own weight.” “The enemy would fight," said
the President once, in a letter to General Hooker, “in intrenchments, and have you at a disadvantage, and so, man for man, worst you at that point, while his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In one word, I would not take, any risk of being entangled upon the river like an ox jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other.” It was also to Hooker that he wrote: “Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.”
In a letter written in 1859 to a Boston committee he said, in describing a change in party standards: “I remember being once
much amused at seeing two par-. tially intoxicated men engaged in a fight with their greatcoats on, which fight, after a long and rather harmless contest, ended in each having fought himself out of his own coat and into that of the other. If the two leading parties of this day are really identical with the two in the days of Jefferson and Adams, they have performed the same feat as the two drunken men.” And this is from his very last public address : “Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it.”
A specimen of his spoken wit is the story told of his reply to the countryman who at a reception said, -in the prepared speech