Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: No Kind to Get to Heaven On

Two ladies from Tennessee called at the White House one day and begged Mr. Lincoln to release their husbands, who were rebel prisoners at Johnson’s Island. One of the fair petitioners urged as a reason for the liberation of her husband that he was a very religious man, and rang the changes on this pious plea.

“Madam,” said Mr. Lincoln, “you say your husband is a religious man. Perhaps I am not a good judge of such matters, but in my opinion the religion that makes men rebel and fight against their government is not the genuine article; nor is the religion the right sort which reconciles them to the idea of eating their bread in the sweat of other men’s faces. It is not the kind to get to heaven on.”

Later, however, the order of release was made, President Lincoln remarking, with impressive solemnity, that he would expect the ladies to subdue the rebellious spirit of their husbands, and to that end he thought it would be well to reform their religion. “True patriotism,” said he, “is better than the wrong kind of piety.”