Lincoln Gets to the Bottom of It

Mr. Lincoln was from the beginning of his circuit-riding the light and life of the court,” wrote friend Ward Hill Lamon. “The most trivial circumstance furnished a back-ground for his wit. The following incident, which illustrates his love of a joke, occurred in the early days of our acquaintance. I, being at the time on the infant side of twenty-one, took particularly pleasure in athletic sports. One day when we were attending the circuit court which met at Bloomington, Ill.,I was wrestling near the court house with some one who had challenged me to a trial, and in the scuffle made a large rent in the rear of my trousers. Before I had time to make any change, I was called into court to take up a case. The evidence was finished. I, being the Prosecuting Attorney at the time, got up to address the jury. Having on a somewhat short coat, my misfortune was rather apparent. One of the lawyers, for a joke, started a subscription paper which was passed from one member of the bar to another as they sat by a long table fronting the bench, to buy a pair of pantaloons for Lamon,–‘he being,’ the paper said, ‘a poor but worthy young man.’ Several put down their names with some ludicrous subscription, and finally the paper was laid by some one in front of Mr. Lincoln, he being engaged in writing at the time. He quietly glanced over the paper, and, immediately taking up his pen, wrote after his name, ‘I can contribute nothing to the end in view.’ – Source: Ward Hill Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 16-17.

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