On one occasion, when Lincoln and Douglas were "stumping" the State of Illinois together as political opponents, Douglas, who had the first speech, remarked that in early life, his father, who he said was an excellent cooper by trade, apprenticed him out to learn the cabinet business.
This was too good for Lincoln to let pass, so when his turn came to reply, he said:
"I had understood before that Mr. Douglas had been bound out to learn the cabinet-making business, which is all well enough, but I was not aware until now that his father was a cooper. I have no doubt, however, that he was one, and I am certain, also, that he was a very good one, for (here Lincoln gently bowed toward Douglas) he has made one of the best whisky casks I have ever seen."
As Douglas was a short heavy-set man, and occasionally imbibed, the pith of the joke was at once apparent, and most heartily enjoyed by all.
On another occasion, Douglas in one of his speeches, made a strong point against Lincoln by telling the crowd that when he first knew Mr. Lincoln he was a "grocery-keeper," and sold whisky, cigars, etc. "Mr. L.," he said, "was a very good bar-tender!" This brought the laugh on Lincoln, whose reply, however, soon came, and then the laugh was on the other side.
"What Mr. Douglas has said, gentlemen," replied Mr. Lincoln, "is true enough; I did keep a grocery and I did sell cotton, candles and cigars, and sometimes whisky; but I remember in those days that Mr. Douglas was one of my best customers.
"Many a time have I stood on one side of the counter and sold whisky to Mr. Douglas on the other side, but the difference between us now is this: I have left my side of the counter, but Mr. Douglas still sticks to his as tenaciously as ever!"—From Lincoln’s Stories, by J. B. McClure.