Dr Hamburgher and the Lame Man – Politics in Lincoln’s Time

“Stump Speech”
(Painting by George Caleb)

Since the world’s going crazy with Trump gaffes, let’s take a moment to enjoy a relevant Lincoln story.

Remember during Trump’s campaign when he mocked or demonstrated a public lack of respect for several disabled people – including one ten-year old boy? How a person treats all people with disabilities is ALWAYS an indication of that person’s character.

Respect people or, failing that, at least respect the disability.

Here was a story Abraham Lincoln enjoyed telling about a lame man who once came to his aid.*

Let’s see what Lincoln thought about the disabled.

In 1858, Lincoln, a Republican, was scheduled for a speech in Cumberland County, Illinois. After he spoke, a Dr. Hamburgher [you can’t make this stuff up!] (a bitter Democrat) rudely jumped up and said he would reply to Lincoln’s speech. So Lincoln took a seat on the outer edge of the platform and listened.

Hamburgher soon went off-topic in his reply and began insulting Lincoln.

At this point a little, insignificant-looking lame man climbed on the side of the platform near Lincoln and quietly said to Lincoln: “Don’t mind him; I know him; I live here; I’ll take care of him, watch me.” And two or three times during Hamburgher’s continuing rant, the lame man leaned over to Lincoln and repeated his promise.

When Hamburgher concluded, the little lame man stood and at once began a reply.

He had spoken only a few minutes when Hamburgher roared out: “That’s a lie!”

“Never mind,” retorted the lame man patronizingly, “I’ll take that from you – in fact, I’ll take anything from you EXCEPT your pills.”[1]

This penetrated the doctor’s thin skin.

“You scoundrel!” he exclaimed, “you know I’ve quit practicing medicine.”

The little lame man instantly dropped to his good knee and, raising his hands in mock worship, he exclaimed: “Then, thank God, the country is safe!”

Lincoln enjoyed telling people stories where he WASN’T the star. This was one of his favorites. That speaks to his character.

Food for thought.


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


*[Please note: I took the liberty of updating the language to make it more understandable for the 21st Century reader. For the original text, see the following]:

[1] Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. Harper & Bros: New York & London, pp.57-58.

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