Six Months at the White House/XLVI
Among the numerous visitors on one of the President's reception days, were a party of Congressmen, among whom was the Hon. Thomas Shannon, of California. Soon after the customary greeting, Mr. Shannon said:--
"Mr. President, I met an old friend of yours in California last summer, Thompson Campbell, who had a good deal to say of your Springfield life." "Ah!" returned Mr. Lincoln, "I am glad to hear of him. Campbell used to be a dry fellow," he continued. "For a time he was Secretary of State. One day, during the legislative vacation, a meek, cadaverous-looking man, with a white neck-cloth, introduced himself to him at his office, and, stating that he had been informed that Mr. C. had the letting of the Assembly Chamber, said that he wished to secure it, if possible, for a course of lectures he desired to deliver in Springfield. 'May I ask,' said the Secretary, 'what is to be the subject of your lectures?' 'Certainly,' was the reply, with a very solemn expression of countenance. 'The course I wish to deliver, is on the Second Coming of our Lord.' 'It is of no use,' said C. 'If you will take my advice, yon will not waste your time in this city. It is my private opinion that if the Lord has been in Springfield once, He will not come the second time!'"
Representative Shannon, previous to the war, had been an "Old Hunker" Democrat. Converted by the Rebellion, he had gone to the other extreme, and was one of the radical Abolitionists of the Thirty-Eighth Congress. The last Sunday in May, the Rev. Dr. Cheever, of New York, delivered one of his most pungent, denunciatory anti-slavery discourses, in the Hall of the House of Representatives. Among the numerous auditors attracted by the name of the preacher, I noticed Mr. Shannon, whose face was not often seen in church. On the way to my hotel, we fell in together. "Well, S.," said I, "what think you of that style of preaching?" "It was the first 'Gospel' sermon I ever heard in my life!" was the emphatic rejoinder.
One of Mr. Shannon's California colleagues, the Hon. Mr. Higby, told me that having special business one evening, which called him to the White House, the President came into the office, dressed for a state dinner. In the conversation which followed, holding up his hands, encased in white gloves, he remarked, with a laugh, that one of his Illinois friends never could see his hands in that "predicament," without being reminded of "canvassed hams!"
Mr. Lincoln was always ready to join in a laugh at the expense of his person, concerning which he was very indifferent. Many of his friends will recognize the following story,--the incident having actually occurred,--which he used to tell with great glee:--
"In the days when I used to be 'on the circuit,' I was once accosted in the cars by a stranger, who said, 'Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.' 'How is that?' I asked, considerably astonished. The stranger took a jack-knife from his pocket. 'This knife,' said he, 'was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.'"