Why Abraham Lincoln Once Pardoned A Doll

Abraham Lincoln is often depicted as a dour and serious man, given over to melancholy and sadness instead of joy. And indeed, considering that he presided over a devastating conflict that tore at the very fabric of the United States and left hundreds of thousands dead, sick, or injured, it's hardly a surprise that he's not portrayed as a joking and playful man. As it turns out, however, he was known to crack wise from time to time, and when it came to his children, he was a doting and loving father. Indeed, as The Washington Post reported, Lincoln's philosophy when it came to disciplining his children was apparently, "less is more," and the lads were known to be holy terrors, given over to vandalism, running about unchecked, and generally being little hellions.

While that may have been tolerated in Springfield, at the White House, the staff had considerably less patience with Lincoln's young sons, and at one point a White House gardener was so exasperated with the president's rambunctious boys that, through a comic series of events, the president wound up pardoning a doll.

Lincoln's sons couldn't stop burying their doll in a White House garden

With little to do at the White House but run about and raise hell, Tad Lincoln and his brother Willie wound up with a doll, dressed in Union finery. Unfortunately, "Jack," as the boys called him, wasn't fit for military life, and would oft find himself court-martialed for abandoning his post or falling asleep while on duty, in the boys' imaginations, as Mental Floss notes. The lads would repeatedly then sentence him to death at dawn, shot by the boys' toy canon, and then buried. 

Unfortunately, those repeated burials and exhumations got to be too much for White House gardener John Watt. One day, Watt had it with the Lincoln boys, and through a series of events, wound up accompanying the boys to the president's office while his (Lincoln's) advisers tried valiantly to mask their shame at being interrupted by a miscreant boy and a gardener. Long story short, the boys asked their father this time to pardon Jack, sparing him death by canon and then burial in Watt's garden. Lincoln gladly pardoned Jack, even affixing his presidential signature to the document.

Unfortunately, Jack continued to be a bad soldier, and just a few days later, the doll was found hanged from a tree, having been convicted of espionage.