“If I have One Vice”

Posted on Updated on

Physically, as every one knows, Mr. Lincoln was not a prepossessing man, with scarcely a redeeming feature, save his benignant eye, which was the very symbol of human kindness. “If I have one vice,” he said to me one morning , – “and I can call it nothing else, – it is not to be able to say no ! Thank God,” he continued, “for not making me a woman, but if He had, I suppose He would have made me just as ugly as He did, and no one would ever have tempted me. It was only the other day, a poor parson whom I knew some years ago in Joliet, came to the White House with a sad story of his poverty and his large family, – poor parsons seem always to have large families, – and he wanted me to do something for him. I knew very well that I could do nothing for him, and yet I couldn’t bear to tell him so, and so I said I would see what I could do. The very next day the man came back for the office which he said that I had promised him, – which was not true, but he seemed really to believe it. Of course there was nothing left for me to do except to get him a place through one of the Secretaries. But if I had done my duty, I should have said ‘no’ in the beginning.” 

Quote in Egbert L. Viele, “A Trip with Lincoln, Chase, and Stanton,” Scribners Monthly 16 (October 1878), p. 818.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *