Johnson slammed down his glass in a rage.
"So say you, Mr. Thomas, but I profess my faith in President Jackson and the power of the gold coin," he said in disgust. "The bank is illegal."
Thomas shook his head, swirling his whisky in his glass. Johnson was a stubborn man on a good day, and he should have known better than to engage in a political conversation over drinks.
"And how many here have benefited from the credit extended by the National Bank?" Thomas asked in a conciliatory tone.
Johnson ignored the question, tapping his glass lightly on the bar to get the attention of the bartender.
"Another whisky," he said to the bartender. "And one for the fool next to me. Perhaps a few more spirits will help him see reason."
The tall, slim bartender said nothing in response, stoically pouring another glass for his patrons.
"The folk around here believe in the good Lord and gold, my friend," Johnson retorted as he flipped a coin onto the bar to pay for the drinks. "Always have."
The bartender slid the coin off the bar and into his apron, nodding in acknowledgement of the payment, but otherwise not signaling agreement or dissent with Johnson's statement.
"Be it any other man, perhaps your argument might hold some merit," Thomas conceded, trying to tone down the discussion. "But alas, Mr. Jackson is country buffoon who acts more like a king than a president."
"And I submit that Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster have never put in an honest day's labor between the two of them," Johnson replied. "Their soft hands are surely in the pockets of their rich patrons."
Johnson glanced at the bartender, looking for some reaction to what he thought was a truly funny retort, but found none. If the bartender was amused at all by the conversation, he wasn't showing it.
"Mr. Webster wouldn't know a field of corn from a field of wheat," he continued. "He wouldn't last a week here in Illinois."
Thomas smirked at the remark, it was hard to imagine the senator from Massachusetts getting his hands dirty.
"Perhaps not, Mr. Johnson, but I suspect, given the need for good attorneys around these parts, Mr. Webster might do just fine," Thomas said. "And I fail to see how Mr. Webster's lack of knowledge when it comes to farming lends any credibility to your argument."
"You would say that," Johnson said, growling as he finished off his glass of whisky with a mighty slug. "But the point is that our president understands the common man, and that flat money generally hurts the farmers and planters and lines the pockets of the rich at their expense."
Johnson stretched his hand across the bar with his empty glass. The bartender anticipated the move and had it filled before Johnson had a chance to ask for another.
"Thank you, my good man," Johnson said. "This young fellow no doubt sees the common man on a daily basis and understands their plight as well as the next. What say you, sir?"
The bartender stood stone-faced, deep in thought. Thomas turned to look at him, as eager as Johnson for the bartender to validate one argument or the other.
"I find it best to avoid discussions of political nature," the bartender said. "And I have no real opinion to offer on the matter, as I have not yet studied it in any detail. I just pour the drinks."
Both men tried to claim victory over the other, if only in the sense that neither had swayed the bartender toward their point of view.
Johnson pressed after a brief argument with his friend, determined to win the day with the young bartender.
"Surely you must see the merit in a gold coin," he said to the bartender.
"One payment is as good as another," the young man replied. "Be it a gold coin or a dozen eggs in barter."
"This fellow ought to be a politician," Thomas laughed. "For who could disagree with that?"
"Well, he's got an honest face, that much is true," Johnson chuckled. "Have you given it any thought, Mister...?"
"Lincoln," the bartender replied. "Abraham Lincoln."
The Real History:
Abraham Lincoln was, in fact, the only U.S. President to be a licensed bartender. He operated a small tavern in New Salem, Illinois, in 1833. He did show political aspirations by that point in his life, more closely aligning with what would become the Whig Party than Andrew Jackson's Democrats. Nonetheless, Jackson appointed him as the town's postmaster.