No one appreciated a funny story better than Abraham Lincoln. Whenever he heard something that made him chuckle, he filed the story away in his memory to use again when the opportunity presented itself. Occasionally, those to whom he told the stories were not as amused as he was.
Shortly after winning the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln was bombarded by applications from office seekers. One of them was Pennsylvania Senator Simon Cameron. Cameron had a reputation for dishonesty, and when fellow-Pennsylvanian, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens learned that Lincoln was considering Cameron for a cabinet position, he expressed his disapproval.
“You don’t mean to say you think Cameron would steal?” asked Lincoln, when told of Stevens’ reservations.
“No,” replied Stevens. “I don’t think he would steal a red-hot stove.”
Lincoln found this response hilarious and repeated Stevens’ comment to several people. One of those to whom he told the story was Simon Cameron. Cameron did not find the story nearly as amusing as Lincoln thought he should. He was outraged and immediately went to Stevens and demanded he retract the defamatory remark.
Stevens immediately went to Lincoln, exasperated. “Mr. Lincoln, why did you tell Cameron what I said to you?”
Lincoln replied that he thought it was funny and didn’t think Cameron would take it seriously.
“Well, he is very mad, and he made me promise to retract,” replied Stevens. “I will do so now. I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I now take that back.”
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