Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Wit and Humor of Abraham Lincoln


"Wit laughs at everybody, humor laughs with everybody."~
Abraham Lincoln

16th U.S. President, civil rights activist, self-educated lawyer, orator, storyteller par excellence.

Many a White House visitor was put at ease by the President's good humor and yarn spinning.

"I really think that Mr. Lincoln's propensity for story-telling has been exaggerated by his enemies. I had once the honor of conversing with him, or rather of hearing him converse, for several minutes, and in all that time he only told four little stories." ~ Sarah Jane Lippincott

Abraham Lincoln was a prodigious reader and fond of collecting stories and anecdotes.

A cabinet member recalls how the president once held up the reception line at a White House affair, in order to ask a guest to repeat an anecdote that he had told the president earlier. Lincoln apparently had forgotten some points of the story.

Lincoln would use anecdotes and humorous stories drawn from all classes of society to get across a point. No matter how complicated the subject matter was, people were able to see and realize the rationale of his argument through the simplicity of storytelling.

He also found solace in story telling. It seem to ease the burden of the presidency, especially the intense responsibility he felt for the issue of the civil war and the lives that were lost.

Abe Lincoln had a talent for spotting the ludicrous and humorous side in anything and everything.

A committee of sanctimonious war managers demanded General Grant's removal on the charge that he imbibe too much whiskey and was no better than a common drunkard. President Lincoln came to the defense of his successful general.
"Ah! You surprise me, gentlemen. But can you tell me where he gets his whiskey?"
"We cannot, Mr. President. But why do you wish to know?"
"Because I would like to send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army." the president answered.

Lincoln narrated this story in a light dig at the contentious and noisy critics to his handling of the civil war

"A frontiersman found himself lost in an uninhabited region on a dark stormy night. Accompanying the torrents of rain were lightnings and more terrible thunder. A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree, causing the man to get down on his knees. Although not the church going kind, his appeal was short and to the point. "Oh, good Lord, if it's all the same to you, give us a little more light, and less noise."
(I would have love to see how today's crop of politicians fare at the foil tip of Abraham Lincoln's witty insults and clever comebacks.:)

The most trivial circumstance provided the background for his witty repartee.

A fellow lawyer, W.H. Lamon got into a scuffle that cause a large tear in the rear of his trousers. Unfortunately he had no time to change as he was due in court to take up a case. Because he had on a short coat, his misfortune was apparent. As a joke, other lawyers inside the courthouse started passing a subscription paper to buy a pair of pants for Lamon, -"He being a poor but worthy young man" the paper read. Several put down their names with almost ridiculous amount of donation.
Finally it reach Lincoln, who quietly glance over the paper.
Taking up his pen, wrote after his name, " I can contribute nothing to the end in view."

Abraham Lincoln was not handsome. Some would even say he had an ugly face. But he had a self-effacing nature that didn't hesitate to poke fun even at himself. During a heated debate, Lincoln was accused of being two-faced by an obviously hostile opponent. Without insulting the other man, he manage to defend himself and defuse the tension. 

Turning calmly to the crowd, Lincoln replied:
"If I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this one?"

Abraham Lincoln is among the most admire and revered U.S. presidents. He is the quintessence of what is noble in man. His wit and homespun humor added to that mystique.

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