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“A Most Abandoned Hypocrite”
A newly discovered document almost certainly written by the young Abraham Lincoln shows him dismantling a shifty political rival with ruthless wit and logic
February/March 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 1
Who are these mighty men that write about the poor heathens in this Valley? are they not generally found in the ranks of the political and religious aristocrats of the day? Have not the theological seminaries produced more men designed for the ministry, than can be employed by the churches in the older states? and is it not a fact that American and national societies have been gotten up in those states in order to place those young men at the head of them, in order to secure them a good sound four or five hundred dollars salary? and is it not evident to all informed observers, that the devil might get all the poor, ignorant , Heathens, in this Valley if they did not get the money?
And these very men, after corning among us, and begging thousands of dollars for those national societies , then turn right round and abuse, and misrepresent the talents, worth and intelligence of the “ Far off West :” and is this course not intended to move on the sympathies of their brethren in the older states, in order to get more money from them into their own pockets, as agents? Now, I put this question to the sober judgment of every Christian and enlightened gentleman, whether this conduct is fair, truthful or honest? and whether these men ought not to be rebuked by an insulted and abused community? Now, after these very men have come on, and settled down in some flourishing town, or growing settlement, with their salaries made sure to them with all their travelling expenses, is it then right to circulate a subscription for their benefit? and after they have appealed to the best feelings of an uninformed and abused community and obtained their money for their national societies and agents, is it then right to slander and misrepresent them? …
Mr. Smith, the Editor of the Pioneer, or some other scribbler in that paper, has thought proper to sound an alarm, by quoting and commenting on a part of a letter written by me to the Editor of the Christian Advocate and Journal, which letter invited teachers from the older states and conferences, to teach in common schools in this state. If the Editor of the Advocate had published all my letter, then no man but an advocate for national societies could reasonably have objected: nor do I see any reasonable ground for objection any how. I did not ask for methodist teachers, and when I asked for those under the influence of our own church, I only meant those that were opposed to American or national societies , and in favor of each church carrying on these benevolent activities in its own proper name, without any amalgamation or combination. Now, where was the harm in this? …
And if any Editor or individual thinks proper to reply to these hasty remarks, I wish to come out in a tangible form, and with a proper name, and in some future number I may give some further remarks on the subject.
PETER CARTWRIGHT . Pleasant Plains, Aug. the 24th, 1834
To most readers of the time, this probably appeared a reasonable defense, and Cartwright himself seemed confident that he could handle any writer bold enough “to come out in a tangible form, and with a proper name.” But to someone with a keen eye for logical inconsistencies, a political animus toward Peter Cartwright, and a talent for satire, the conjunction of the Advocate letter and the “Moral Waste” represented an irresistible opportunity to hoist Uncle Peter by his own petard. While the date on the reply shows that it was written soon after Cartwright’s letter was printed in the August 30 issue of the Sangamo Journal , it did not appear in the Beardstown Chronicle until November 1, 1834:
For the Beardstown Chronicle.
New Salem, Sept. 7th, 1834
In the Journal of August 30th, I see an article headed the “Valley of the Mississippi, or the Moral Waste, No. 1,” and signed “Peter Cartwright,” to which the writer seems to invite a reply from any editor or individual.
Now, if I could possibly conceive that this article was written with a view to aid the true religion in any shape, I should not meddle with it; or if I could conceive that it was intended to vindicate the character of the “West,” I should be the last to censure it. But being thoroughly satisfied that it is wholly a political manoeuvre, and being equally well satisfied that the author is a most abondoned [ sic ] hypocrite (I will not say in religion—for of this I pretend to know nothing—but) in politics, I venture to handle it without restraint.