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Cordell Hull, the American secretary of state from 1933 to 1944, was reputed to be an extremely caustious man, ungiven to advancing an inch past the evidence, as perhaps befits a secretary of state.

Once, on a train trip, Hull and a companion watched while the locomotive dragged its load of cars slowly past a large flock of sheep. Making conversation, Hull’s companion said, “Those sheep have been recently sheared.”

Hull stared thoughtfully at the animals, then said, “Appears so. At least on the side facing us.”

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