Lincoln's Lighter Side

by Bulletin Digest

Editor's note: Many times in past years Pulpit Helps has noted and quoted incidents and sayings of one of our greatest presidents, Abe Lincoln. These were generally serious, if not somber-for his presidency occurred during one of the darkest periods of our history. This year, however, we draw on stories (reported to be true) from the lighter side. And this, too, was Lincoln.

Once Lincoln was trying to help his audience understand that just because you call something another thing doesn't make it so. To illustrate he asked the audience: "How many legs will a sheep have if you call the tail a leg?"

"Five," was the reply.

"You are mistaken," chuckled Lincoln, "for calling a tail a leg doesn't make it so."

Abraham LincolnOnce a preacher was the speaker of the hour at a presidential reception. After his message, he closed with the hope that "the Lord would be on our side."

"I am not at all concerned about that," commented Lincoln, "for we know that the Lord will always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side."

Lincoln once told his friends how he came into possession of a rather expensive pocket knife. He said that one day a fellow approached him and said: "Excuse me, sir, but I have something that belongs to you."

"How is that?" asked Lincoln.

"This knife," said the stranger, "was once given to me with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a homelier-looking man than I. I have carried this knife for years, but let me say that you are fairly entitled to the property with the same injunction."

It is said that Lincoln was buried with the knife.

Lincoln considered many of his top military leaders to be incompetent. Once when he received news that a brigadier general and twelve army mules had been captured by Southern troops, Lincoln's comment was: "How unfortunate! Those mules cost us two hundred dollars apiece!"

Before embarking on a political career, Lincoln worked as an attorney. Once, a would-be client came into his office. The young man had a legal claim to a value of six hundred dollars. But his winning the case would ruin a recent widow and afflict her six children.

Lincoln told the man: "Should I and my partner take this case we would most likely win it for you. However, some things that are right legally are not right morally. We will therefore not be taking this case. However, I will give you some advice free of charge. I advise an energetic young man like you to make six hundred dollars some other way."

Even Lincoln had to endure gossips who had nothing better to do than criticize things that couldn't be helped. Once, a couple of supporters were attacking Mr. Douglas (one of Lincoln's political rivals). They were irrationally discussing how Douglas' legs were too small. (Douglas was a short man.)

"How long do you think a man's legs should be?" one of the gossips asked Lincoln.

"Well," he said, "I should think a man's legs ought to be long enough to reach from his body to the ground."