Abraham Lincoln: “I Can’t Dance.”

Lincoln the "rail splitter" not so skilled at dancing?

Lincoln the "rail splitter" not so skilled at dancing?


Abraham Lincoln had many skills and talents, among them were those that involved physical adeptness. His wrestling prowess was well-known. His rail splitting skills were legendary. Even on his death bed the physicians attending him were amazed by his well-toned muscles. Apparently, he was not so good at one thing- as the story below illuminates: 

“If Lincoln’s hand could pen elegant prose, his long legs lacked a similar grace. At a Springfield soiree, the courting Lincoln edged over to the silk-gowned Mary Todd and offered, “Miss Mary, I’d like to dance with you in the worst way.”  After a spin on the floor, Mary said, Abraham, you wanted to dance in the worst way and you certainly did!”

From: “The Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln” by James C. Humes


I don’t know that Lincoln ever learned to dance in a more skillful manner. As President he attended balls where dancing was an expected and enjoyed activity. Perhaps he just finally exclaimed to Mary: “I can’t dance!”

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4 Responses to “Abraham Lincoln: “I Can’t Dance.””

  1. B. Nash says:

    Hello again! Hope you are well. I have found no source for the quote. It cannot be stated that he said it. Too bad…it’s a great quote.

  2. Sharon Worley Henson says:

    B. Nash,

    Did you ever find out for sure whether or not the quote that I sent you”…..they are released when I dance.” is true? I’m a dancer, lived in KY Lincoln/Todd country, and love the story of Lincoln’s asking Mary to dance. I would love for my quote, which I’ve found in numerous places, but with no source, to be real. I would like to think that he had that enjoyable outlet, for he was indeed burdened. Thanks.

  3. B. Nash says:

    That’s a nice quote but I highly doubt if Lincoln ever said that. It is not contained in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln at all.

  4. Sharon Worley Henson says:

    I don’t know if Lincoln ever learned to dance better, but like many of us, he enjoyed it anyway. I found this quote from him:

    “Thousands of emotions well up inside me throughout the day. They are released when I dance.” -Abraham Lincoln

    I’m glad he danced!

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