Wis. Budget Flap Recalls Lincoln’s Leap in 1840

Wednesday, 02 Mar 2011 04:22 PM

By Peter Miller

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The headline-grabbing spectacle of Wisconsin Democrats fleeing the state to avoid voting on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts to corral a $3.6 billion budget deficit recalls a peculiar historical episode that featured a young Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln
The Illinois Legislature was in the grip of a banking crisis, according to an 1840 article in the Illinois State Register.

The financially troubled state bank in Springfield had issued cash beyond its gold and silver reserves, and Democrats were keen to pass a bill to solve the dilemma.

Opposition Whig Party members tried to flee the capitol building to thwart a vote, but the doors were locked. So the long-limbed Lincoln opened a second-story window and leaped to the ground.

The future president’s madcap escape delayed the proceedings for a short time, but later he returned for the vote.

Nevertheless, newspaper accounts regaled readers with tales of "Mr. Lincoln's celebrated leap," saying that it "caused him no harm because his legs reached nearly from the window to the ground."

The famed rail-splitter, who served four terms in the Illinois House, provided a side-splitting diversion to the political routine. His escapade inspired jokes and even rumors that the statehouse would be renovated to a minimum of three stories to preclude such shenanigans.


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