Our latest Exclusive comes from the editors of Lapham’s Quarterly. They’ve been longtime contributors to the Longreads community, and this week we’re thrilled to present “Working the Room,” a new essay on humor and the presidency by Michael Phillips-Anderson, from their latest issue, “Politics.” (If you like this, you can subscribe to their print edition here):
In 1848, as a young representative from Illinois, Lincoln took the House floor in support of the Whig presidential candidate, Zachary Taylor. He mocked his Democratic opponents for not gathering behind a single candidate by telling a curious anecdote:
I have heard some things from New York, and if they are true, we might well say of your party there, as a drunken fellow once said when he heard the reading of an indictment for hog stealing. The clerk read on till he got to, and through the words, ‘did steal, take, and carry away, ten boars, ten sows, ten shoats, and ten pigs’ at which he exclaimed, ‘Well, by golly, that is the most equally divided gang of hogs I ever did hear of.’ If there is any gang of hogs more equally divided than the Democrats of New York are about this time, I have not heard of it.
When Lincoln finished with a remark, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘He looks up at you with a great satisfaction, and shows all his white teeth, and laughs.’