I'd like to learn what "too big a lick" means in the following.

Thus to Sumner, who called at the White House twice on July 4 "to urge the reconsecration of the day by a decree of emancipation," the President said that a general order was "too big a lick," though Sumner believed he was not "disinclined" to issue a proclamation covering eastern Virginia.

Source: Lincoln by David Herbert Donald, p. 364


Subject: the early negotiations of the Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln and "too big a lick" google books

Lincoln was concerned that a full and immediate proclamation would result in half the Union troops deserting in protest and losing some of the wavering border states.

In this example it was too much ... too soon to take a lick at.

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From The Language of the Civil War by John D. Wright, p. 176

lick 1. A physical hit or mental blow. When Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts asked President Abraham Lincoln to issue a general a decree of emancipation on July 4, 1862, Lincoln replied that it would be "too big a lick." 2. A tiny amount or small portion or a bit. This Scottish word was used then and now in such sentences as,"He can't fight a lick."

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A task that is too difficult take on


A task doomed to fail

Sounds like southern slang, not sure. Less likely, but could mean overkill.

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  • Thank you. I think I should take this : A task that is too difficult take on – Mankak Feb 7 '18 at 5:21
  • Welcome to EL&U. Please add references to improve your answer. – Rupert Morrish Feb 16 '18 at 3:08

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