I’m rehashing the Thaddeus Stevens links I shilled earlier on the blog, but fans of Lincoln’s wit will enjoy this particular article. Lincoln wasn’t the only one in his day with a sharp tongue.
When he served as a lawyer in Gettysburg, Stevens greeted an adverse judicial decision by shuffling papers and grumbling loudly. The judge said he could fine Stevens for “manifesting contempt of court.”
“Manifesting contempt of court, your Honor?” exclaimed Stevens. “Sir, I am doing my best to conceal it.”
I was particularly gratified to see this quote, which I’ve long known but been unable to attribute. It’s positively Shavian:
Stevens did not like all Republicans, however. He thought poorly of fellow Lancastrian Simon Cameron. He told Abraham Lincoln to watch out for Cameron after the president made him Secretary of War.
Lincoln protested: “You don’t mean to say you think that Cameron would steal?”
“No,” said Stevens, “I don’t think he would steal a red-hot stove.”
The remark got back to Cameron, who demanded a retraction.
So Stevens went to Lincoln and offered this “retraction”: “I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back.”