Why Abe Never Said, 'I'm Blacker Than Frederick Douglass'

Article excerpt

Life was stressful and unfair at times for Abraham Lincoln, but it's hard to envision him sitting around with a magazine reporter and uncorking a big bottle of stupid in the way our former Land of Lincoln Gov. Rod Blagojevich did in his whine with Esquire.

Had Lincoln been an arrogant, delusional, foul-mouthed idiot, the Lincoln archives in Springfield could have documents quoting Lincoln along these lines: "What the (expletive)? I'm blacker than Frederick Douglass. I split rails. I taught myself to read by (expletive) firelight."

But Lincoln never said anything remotely that stupid or offensive.

"Lincoln was pretty careful," says Thomas Schwartz, the Illinois state historian.

Blagojevich calls Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan the highly offensive "C word," but Lincoln never even called Stephen Douglas a "little blank."

"That wasn't part of his regular behavior," Schwartz says. "The worst you are going to find" is a personal letter in which Lincoln said a rival Illinois legislator was "not worth a damn."

OK. But maybe Abe said stupid things when he took off that hat and let his hair down. Let's say Abe was doing an impression of Stephen Foster singing "Camptown Races" in front of reporters on the campaign trail, when he started talking about his spouse, Mary Todd Lincoln, just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sometimes talks about her hubby, Bill.

"There's one last thing that's a problem, which is my wife," Lincoln might have said. "You've seen what this is like. It will be a circus if I take this job."

But Abe managed restraint. …