[During a Cabinet discussion of a ticklish international problem, he reminisces about peddling wares along the way as the family moved from Indiana to Illinois in 1829, Mr. Lincoln said:] ‘Just before we left Indiana and crossed into Illinois,’ continued Mr. Lincoln solemnly, speaking in a grave tone of voice, ‘we came across a small farm-house full of nothing in a grave tone of voice, ‘we cam across a small farm-house full of nothing but children. These ranged in years from seventeen years to seventeen months, and all were in tears. The mother of the family was red-headed and red-faced, and the whip she held in her right hand led to the inference that she had been chastising her brood. The father of the family, a meek-looking, mild-manner, tow-headed chap, was standing in the front door-way, awaiting– to all appearances– his turn to feel the thong.”
“I thought there wasn’t much use in asking the head of that house if she wanted any ‘notions.’ She was too busy. It was evident an insurrection had been in progress, but it was pretty well quelled when I got there. The mother had about suppressed it with an iron hand, but she was not running any risks. She kept a keen and wary eye upon all the children, not forgetting an occasional glance at th ‘old man’ in the doorway.”
“She saw me as i came up, and from her look I thought she was of the opinion that intended to interfere. Advancing to the doorway, and roughly pushing her husband aside, she demanded my business.”
“Nothing, madame,’ I answered as gently as possible; ‘I merely dropped in as I came along to see how things were going.”
“Well, you needn’t wait,’ was the reply in an irritated way, ‘there’s trouble here, an’ lots of it, too, but I kin manage my own affairs without the help of outsiders. This is jest a family row, but I’ll teach these brats their places ef I hev to lick the hide off ev’ry one of them. I don’t do much talkin’, but I run this house an’ I dont wan no one sneakin’ round tryin’ to find out how I do it, either.”
“That’s the case here with us,’ the President said in conclusion. ‘We must let the other nations know that we propose to settle our family row in our own way, and ‘teach these brats their places’ (the seceding States) if we have to ‘lick the hide off’ of each and every one of them. And, like the old woman, we don’t want any ‘sneakin’ ’round’ by other countries who would like to find out how we are to do it, either.”
Alexander McClure, Abe Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, p. 342-343.