John Hay

“What a Man it is!”

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April 30, 1864.

A little after midnight as I was writing those last lines, the President came into the office laughing, with a volume of Hood’s Works in his hand, to show Nicolay and me the little caricature, ‘An Unfortunate Bee-ing; seemingly utterly unconscious that he, with his short shirt hanging about his long legs, and setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich, was infinitely funnier than anything in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is! Occupied all day with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army of the world, with his own plans and future hanging on the events of the passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple bonhommie and good fellowship that he gets out of bed and perambulates the house in his shirt to find us, that we may share with him the fun of poor Hood’s queer little conceits.

Quoted in John Hay, Inside Lincoln’s White House, p. 194.

“The Greatest Character Since Christ”

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I believe that Lincoln is well understood by the people; but there is a patent-leather, kid-glove set who know no more of him than an owl does of a comet blazing into his blinking eyes. Their estimates of him are in many causes disgraceful exhibitions of ignorance and prejudice. Their effeminate natures shrink instinctively from the contact of a great reality like Lincoln’s character. I consider Lincoln’s republicanism incarnate-with all its faults and all its virtues. As, in spite of some rudeness, republicanism is the sole hope of a sick world, so Lincoln, with all his foibles, is the greatest character since Christ.”

By John Hay, the Assisant Private Secretary to Abraham Lincoln.

Quoted in Letter of John Hay to William H. Herndon, September 5, 1866.  (Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life Written by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, ed.   Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, editor, Herndon’s Informants, p. 332.)