A delightful story about Abe Lincoln prompted by cats

NOTE…. I can not tell a lie…..check the Note at the end.

I often follow Quora and today read a delightful story about my hero Abe. A questioner asked: Abraham Lincoln once jokingly said of his cat that it’s “smarter than his whole cabinet”. Why would he say that?

a Paul Donnelly with a quarter million views of various answers gave it context. https://www.quora.com/profile/Paul-Donnelly-29

The whole quote makes it a bit more clear.

During Lincoln’s first term, he appointed a Cabinet that, as Doris Kearns Goodwin put it, had only the one thing in common, that each of them believed they, individually, would have made a better President than Lincoln did.

It was his principal rival for the Republican nomination, William Seward who gave Lincoln two cats to keep as pets in the White House. Seward had known Lincoln the longest among his Cabinet officers — having been a prominent lawyer when they met to work together on a case. Seward didn’t think much of Lincoln, to all appearances just a frontier barrister with no real knowledge of the law: the kind of guy who told stories in court instead of making a shrewd, learned legal argument.

It was a railroad case, and in its own way a critical moment in Western expansion.

Prior, it was river traffic that always had the right of way — barges, steamboats and the like moved with or against the flow of the Mississippi, the Ohio and so on: cross-river traffic simply had to get out of the way. So when railroads began to build bridges ACROSS rivers like the Ohio, the formerly dominant economic powers behind river freight weren’t happy — much less so, when a freighter smacked into one of the massive stone pillars of a bridge and sank.

Thus, the lawsuit.

It involved a profound and unresolved question in American law: who was liable for the loss in such a circumstance? (If you think about it, this now-obscure case was about whether America’s future was North-South — or East-West: not a small thing.)

Seward and the NYC lawyers the railroad brought in to take over the case from Lincoln spent a considerable time parsing precedent and seeking some traction for the railroad’s case, since it wasn’t covered by any statute at the time.

Lincoln simply interrogated the freighter’s captain: Boats move, don’t they?

Yes, of course they do.

On their own? Or do you get paid for your expertise in guiding them?

I am an expert navigator.

Do bridges move? These stone pillars, anchored to the river bottom — do they have navigators?

No, sir, they do not.

I rest my case.

Seward realized Lincoln was a LOT smarter than he appeared, that in fact his whole frontier story-teller thing was something real about him, but which he used to his advantage. So Lincoln made Seward Secretary of State, the leader of the “team of rivals”.

Not long after Seward gave Lincoln the cats, the Cabinet got into a debate in front of the Chief Executive on a matter in which Lincoln expressed his opinion, yet the debate went on. So he began to dangle a piece of string that he kept in his pocket, which the cat naturally attacked.

Seward wondered if this was a good use of the President’s time. Lincoln replied:

“Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet! And furthermore she doesn’t talk back!”

NOTE: This is such a fun story I’m keeping it here even though its not accurate. I wondered about Lincoln partnering with New York Attorney Seward and that is not true. I do know that Lincoln named one of his cat’s Dixie and he was playing with her during a cabinet meeting and that his comment about the cat vs. the cabinet is well documented. And from what I read it was his common sense that won the day for Railroads over the rich river shipping industry. The arguments he used took two days to sum up not five quick questions……but they were substantially the same reasoning. He did win it for the new East West Railroad industry.

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