‘A Power of Good It Did’ – Lincoln’s Story About Critics

A Northern political cartoon circa 1864. The artist seeks to scare by suggesting that Lincoln’s policies will destroy the Union and the Constitution.

As the president and as the commander-in-chief during America’s only civil war, Abraham Lincoln endured a tremendous amount of criticism.

The criticism came from almost every corner of the Union – banks, military, business owners, farmers, shipping magnates – if there was a group, Lincoln had a critic in it.

On occasion, when someone asked how he felt about this, Lincoln liked to tell this story.

I feel about that a good deal as a man whom I will call ‘Jones,’whom I once knew, did about his wife.


He was one of your meek men, and had the reputation of being badly henpecked. At last, one day his wife was seen chasing him out of the house striking him with a switch.


A day or two afterward, a friend of his met him on the street, and said: ‘Jones, I have always stood up for you, as you know, but I’m not going to do it any longer. Any man who will stand quietly and take a switching from his wife deserves to be horse-whipped.’


Jones looked up with a wink, patting his friend on the back. ‘Now, don’t,’ he said. ‘Why, it didn’t hurt me any; and you’ve no idea what a power of good it did Sarah Ann! [1]

Taking the ‘whipping’ of criticism in silence wasn’t a sign of Lincoln’s weakness; it was his deeper understanding what it did for his critics!

Personal sensitivity and ego-mania are NOT the characteristics of great presidents.

Food for thought.


[Like this one? Please click here for more Stories That Abe Told.]

Works Cited

[1] Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. New York & London: Harper & Bros. p183.

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