Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: Heels Ran Away with Them

In an argument against the opposite political party at one time during a campaign, Lincoln said: “My opponent uses a figurative expression to the effect that ‘the Democrats are vulnerable in the heel, but they are sound in the heart and head.’ The first branch of the figure—that is the Democrats are vulnerable in the heel—I admit is not merely figuratively but literally true. Who that looks but for a moment at their hundreds of officials scampering away with the public money to Texas, to Europe, and to every spot of the earth where a villain may hope to find refuge from justice, can at all doubt that they are most distressingly affected in their heels with a species of running itch?

“It seems that this malady of their heels operates on the sound-headed and honest-hearted creatures very much as the cork leg in the comic song did on its owner, which, when he once got started on it, the more he tried to stop it, the more it would run away.

“At the hazard of wearing this point threadbare, I will relate an anecdote the situation calls to my mind, which seems to be too strikingly in point to be omitted. A witty Irish soldier, who was always boasting of his bravery when no danger was near, but who invariably retreated without orders at the first charge of the engagement, being asked by his captain why he did so, replied, ‘Captain, I have as brave a heart as Julius Caesar ever had, but somehow or other, whenever danger approaches, my cowardly legs will run away with it.’

“So with the opposite party—they take the public money into their hands for the most laudable purpose that wise heads and honest hearts can dictate; but before they can possibly get it out again, their rascally, vulnerable heels will run away with them.”