Home  »  Respectfully Quoted  »  Abraham Lincoln (1809–65)

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

AUTHOR: Abraham Lincoln (1809–65)
QUOTATION: He said that he felt “like the boy that stumped his toe,—‘it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry.’”
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to ABRAHAM LINCOLN by John T. Morse, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1, p. 149 (1893), referring to Lincoln’s defeat by Senator Stephen Douglas in the 1858 senatorial campaign in Illinois.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, November 22, 1862, p. 131, attributed this reply to President Lincoln, when asked how he felt about the result of the New York election [where the Democratic candidate won the governorship]: “Somewhat like that boy in Kentucky, who stubbed his toe while running to see his sweetheart. The boy said he was too big to cry, and far too badly hurt to laugh.”

Adlai Stevenson told this story in his nationally-televised concession speech after the 1952 presidential election: “Someone asked me, as I came in, down on the street, how I felt, and I was reminded of a story that a fellow-townsman of ours used to tell—Abraham Lincoln. They asked him how he felt once after an unsuccessful election. He said that he was too old to cry, but it hurt too much to laugh.”—The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson, ed. Walter Johnson, vol. 4, p. 188 (1974). The speech was delivered at the Leland Hotel, Springfield, Illinois, in the early hours of November 5, 1952.