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LAUGH OR DIE


In writing about Lincoln’s Civil War years, author Richard Hanser says that on September 22, 1862, the War Cabinet was summoned to the White House for a special session. Lincoln was reading a book as everyone came in. Secretary of War Stanton later said this of the meeting: “Finally the President turned to us and said, ‘Gentlemen, did you ever read anything of Artimus Ward? Let me read a chapter that is very funny.’”


The president then read aloud a skit called “Highhanded Outrage in Utica.” Stanton was furious, but Lincoln read on and, at the end, he laughed mightily. “Gentlemen,” he asked, “why do you not laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh, I should die. And you need this medicine as much as I do.”

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