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More Lessons from Lincoln

From “Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories” by Alexander Kelly:


John M. Palmer, Major-General in the Volunteer Army, Governor of the State of Illinois, and United States Senator from the Sucker State, became acquainted with Lincoln in 1839, and the last time he saw the President was at the White House in February, 1865. Senator Palmer told the story of his interview as follows:

“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 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.'”

While Lincoln never let go of his values, his lack of a rigid allegiance to some plan, some inflexible “policy” is something I wish other politicians would embrace; especially our current president.

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