Best Lincoln Stories Tersely Told
by J. E. Gallaher
Pub. in 1898




"Speaking of Lincoln’s birthday," said Senator Palmer yesterday, "reminds me that the very last case Lincoln ever tried was one in which I, too, was engaged. It was in Springfield, in June, 1860, after Mr. Lincoln had received the Presidential nomination. Old David Baker, who had been a Senator in the early days, had sued the trustees of Shurtleff College, my alma mater, for expelling his grandson, a lad named Will Gilbert. Mr. Lincoln appeared for the prosecution. I was the college attorney. Mr. Lincoln came into court and the Judge said to him: ‘Mr. Lincoln, I’ll argue this case for you. You have too much on your hands already. You haven’t any case.’ And he explained the law and application.

"‘Well,’ said Mr. Lincoln, with a smile, ‘don’t you want to hear a speech from me?"

"‘No,’ said the Judge, and the last case Mr. Lincoln tried he—well, he didn’t try it at all."

"The first time I met Mr. Lincoln was in 1839, when I went to Springfield to be admitted to the bar. He was already recognized as a Whig leader. He wore, I remember, a suit of linsey woolsey, that could not have been worth more than $8 even in those days. The last time I saw him was in February of 1865. I had come to Washington at the request of the Governor, to complain that Illinois had been credited with 18,000 too few troops. I saw Mr. Lincoln one afternoon, and he asked me to come again in the morning.

"Next morning I sat in the ante-room while several officers were relieved. At length I was told to enter the President’s room. Mr. Lincoln was in the hands of the barber.

"‘Come in, Palmer,’ he called out, ‘come in. You’re home folks. I can shave before you. I couldn’t before those others, and I have to do it some time.’

"We chatted about various matters, and at length I said:

"‘Well, Mr. Lincoln, if anybody had told me that in a great crisis like this the people were going out to a little one-horse town and pick out a one-horse lawyer for President I wouldn’t have believed it.’

"Mr. Lincoln whirled about in his chair, his face white with lather, a towel under his chin. At first I thought he was angry. Sweeping the barber away he leaned forward, and placing one hand on my knee said:

"‘Neither would I. But it was a time when a man with a policy would have been fatal to the country. I have never had a policy. I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each day came.’

"Lincoln was not an eloquent man. He was a stronger lawyer, and an ingenious one. His stronghold was his ability to reason logically and clearly. He was a very self-contained man, and not easily excited. I remember the night when the news of his election was received at Springfield. The patriotic ladies of the town were serving a lunch in an upper room opposite the capitol. Mr. Lincoln was there, and read the returns as they were brought to him. The returns from New York decided the day. Mr. Lincoln stood up and read the telegram. He was the calmest man in the room. When he had finished he said, simply, ‘Well I must go and tell my wife.’"


Page 84-86



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