Lincoln, however, had the highest opinion of Stanton, and their relations were always most kindly, as the following anecdote bears witness: A committee of Western men, headed by [Congressman Owen] Lovejoy, procured from the President an important order looking to the exchange and transfer of Eastern and Western soldiers with a view to more effective work. Repairing to the office of the Secretary, Mr. Lovejoy explained the scheme, as he had before done to the President, but was met with a flat refusal.
“But we have the President’s order, sir,” said Lovejoy.
“Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind?” said Stanton.
“He did, sir.”
“Then he is a d-d fool,” said the irate secretary.
“Do you mean to say the President is add fool?” asked Lovejoy, in amazement.
“Yes, sir, if he gave you such an order as that.”
The bewildered Illinoisan betook himself at once to the President, and related the result of his conference.
“Did Stanton say I was a d-d fool? “asked Lincoln at the close of the recital.
“He did, sir, and repeated it.”
After a moment’s pause, and looking up, the President said, “If Stanton said I was a d-d fool, then I must be one, for he is nearly always right, and generally says what he means. I will step over and see him.”
George W. Julian, Political Recollections, 1840 to 1872, pp. 211-12.