One of the last, if not the very last story told by President Lincoln, was to one of his Cabinet who came to see him, to ask if it would be proper to permit “Jake” Thompson to slip through Maine in disguise and embark for Portland.
The President, as usual, was disposed to be merciful, and to permit the arch-rebel to pass unmolested, but Secretary Stanton urged that he should be arrested as a traitor.
“By permitting him to escape the penalties of treason,” persisted the War Secretary, “you sanction it.”
“Well,” replied Mr. Lincoln, “let me tell you a story. There was an Irish soldier here last summer, who wanted something to drink stronger than water, and stopped at a drug-shop, where he espied a soda-fountain. ‘Mr. Doctor,’ said he, ‘give me, plase, a glass of soda-wather, an’ if yez can put in a few drops of whiskey unbeknown to any one, I’ll be obleeged.’ Now,” continued Mr. Lincoln, “if ‘Jake’ Thompson is permitted to go through Maine unbeknown to any one, what’s the harm? So don’t have him arrested.”