Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Story Written for Noah Brooks [1]

[December 6, 1864]

THE PRESIDENT'S LAST, SHORTEST, AND BEST SPEECH.

On thursday of last week two ladies from Tennessee came before the President asking the release of their husbands held as prisonersPage  155 of war at Johnson's Island. They were put off till friday, when they came again; and were again put off to saturday. At each of the interviews one of the ladies urged that her husband was a religious man. On saturday the President ordered the release of the prisoners, and then said to this lady ``You say your husband is a religious man; tell him when you meet him, that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but that, in my opinion, the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their government, because, as they think, that government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread on the sweat of other men's faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven!''

A. LINCOLN.

Annotation

[1]   ADS, MeHi. Nicolay and Hay date this item ``December 3, 1864'' (X, 279), while Tracy dates it ``Nov.---, 1864'' (pp. 248-49.) December 3 was on Saturday, which would seem from Lincoln's narrative to have been in the past at the time of writing. December 6 has been assigned because the item appeared in the Washington Daily Chronicle on December 7, 1864. Noah Brooks records the circumstances under which it was written:

``. . . Upon another occasion, hearing that I was in the parlor, he sent for me to come up into the library, where I found him writing on a piece of common stiff box-board with a pencil. Said he, after he had finished, `Here is one speech of mine which has never been printed, and I think it worth printing. Just see what you think.' He then read the following, which is copied verbatim from the familiar handwriting before me: [text as above]

``To this the President signed his name at my request, by way of joke, and added for a caption, `The President's Last, Shortest, and Best Speech,' under which title it was duly published in one of the Washington newspapers. . . .'' (``Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln,'' Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July, 1865, p. 230).