Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: His Teeth Chattered

During the Lincoln-Douglas joint debates of 1858, the latter accused Lincoln of having, when in Congress, voted against the appropriation for supplies to be sent the United States soldiers in Mexico. In reply, Lincoln said: “This is a perversion of the facts. I was opposed to the policy of the administration in declaring war against Mexico; but when war was declared I never failed to vote for the support of any proposition looking to the comfort of our poor fellows who were maintaining the dignity of our flag in a war that I thought unnecessary and unjust.”

He gradually became more and more excited; his voice thrilled and his whole frame shook. Sitting on the stand was O. B. Ficklin, who had served in Congress with Lincoln in 1847. Lincoln reached back, took Ficklin by the coat-collar, back of his neck, and in no gentle manner lifted him from his seat as if he had been a kitten, and roared: “Fellow-citizens, here is Ficklin, who was at that time in Congress with me, and he knows it is a lie.”

He shook Ficklin until his teeth chattered. Fearing he would shake Ficklin’s head off, Ward Lamon grasped Lincoln’s hand and broke his grip.

After the speaking was over, Ficklin, who had warm personal friendship with him, said: “Lincoln, you nearly shook all the Democracy out of me to-day.”