During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln had occasion at an official reception to refer to the Southerners rather as erring human beings than as foes to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked him for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. "Why, madam," said Lincoln, "do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
Questioned by the British television interviewer David Frost about his approval of a plan of action that entailed such criminal ingredients as burglary and the opening of other people's mail, Richard Nixon replied, "Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
Although failing fast, [former U.S. president] John Adams was determined to survive until the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — July 4, 1826. At dawn on that day he was awakened by his servant, who asked if he knew what day it was. He replied, "Oh, yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all." He then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon he recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, "Thomas Jefferson lives." These were his last words. Unknown to him, Thomas Jefferson had died that same day.
During a recital in Berlin, Andrés Segovia's guitar was heard to emit a loud cracking sound. Segovia rushed offstage and, cradling his instrument, kept repeating, "My guitar, my guitar." It was soon learned that the man who had built the guitar had died in Madrid at the exact moment in the concert that Segovia's guitar had split.
Despite his evident love of children, Hans Christian Andersen never married. Late in life his health declined rapidly; first he developed chronic bronchitis, then the more serious, and ultimately fatal, liver cancer. Unable to care for himself, he moved into the house of some friends near Copenhagen, where he could see the ocean from his room. One morning he quietly finished his tea, and was found a few minutes later in his bed, dead. In his hands was a farewell letter written forty-five years earlier by the only woman he had ever loved.