Fair Enough


Lincoln used a particular logical sleight of hand, long familiar to humorists, as a means of addressing the tariff question. He told of a fellow who had come into the grocery store in New Salem and asked for a few cents’ worth of crackers. The clerk laid them out on the counter, but after just sitting for a while the fellow said, ‘I don’t want these crackers, take them, and give me a glass of cider.’ So the clerk put the crackers away and gave him the cider, which he drank and headed for the door. ‘Here, Bill!’ called out the clerk, ‘pay me for your cider.’ ‘Why,’ said Bill, ‘I gave you the crackers for it.’ ‘Well, then, pay me for the crackers.’ ‘But I hain’t had any,’ responded Bill. ‘That’s so,’ said the clerk. ‘Well, clear out! It seems to me that I’ve lost a [few cents] somehow, but I can’t make it out exactly.’

— Richard Cawardine, Lincoln’s Sense of Humor, 2017