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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
The first sentence in the article that I shall notice is in the following words: “For a number of years past, the character of the citizens of the Valley of the Mississippi, has been assailed and slandered to an extent never surpassed in any civilized country.[”] Now, as to the truth of this charge of slander, I know but little. This much, however, I do know—that whenever an eastern man becomes a candidate for office in this country, this general charge of slander is resorted to, with a view to prejudice men against him. But I must confess that I have never known but one man fairly proved guilty of the charge; and that man was a western man—and no other than Peter Cartwright. He was proved guilty in the following manner:—
Some time last summer, the letter to which he alludes in his “Moral Waste,” was discovered in the Christian Advocate Journal, bearing his signature. In this letter, speaking of this country, he says: —“This land of moral desolation.” This letter was published in handbill form, and circulated in great numbers throughout Sangamon county, was posted up on the doors of stores and groceries, and even read in public companies of which he formed a part, and, so far as I can learn, the authorship was never disavowed by him. I have not the letter before me, and therefore cannot make many or long quotations from it; but the short one I have made I know is correct, and I well recollect that the whole tenor of the letter was in perfect unison with it.
The next sentence that I shall notice is in these words: “Who are these mighty men that write about the poor heathens in this Valley?” To this I answer that I cannot say who they all are; but the world has positive evidence that Peter Cartwright is one of them.
Again he says, “Are they not generally found in the ranks of the political and religious aristocrats of the day.”
To this I cannot give a direct answer. However if uncle Peter be a fair sample of the clan, I should say they are.
Again he says, “Is is [ sic ] 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.” To this I incline to answer yes. I beleive [ sic ] the people in this country are in some degree priest ridden. I also believe, and if I am not badly mistaken “all informed observers” will concur in the belief that Peter Cartwright bestrides, more than any four men in the northwestern part of the State. He [ sic ]
He has one of the largest and best improved farms in Sangamon county, with other property in proportion. And how has he got it? Only by the contributions he has been able to levy upon and collect from a priest ridden church. It will not do to say he has earned it “by the sweat of his brow;” for although he may sometimes labor, all know that he spends the greater part of his time in preaching and electioneering.
And then to hear him in electioneering times publicly boasting of mustering his militia, (alluding to the Methodist Church) and marching and counter-marching them in favor of, or against this or that candidate—why, this is not only hard riding, but it is riding clear off the track, stumps, logs and black-jack brush, notwithstanding. For a church or community to be priest ridden by a man who will take their money and treat them kindly in return is bad enough in all conscience; but to be ridden by one who is continually exposing them to ridicule by making a public boast of his power to hoodwink them, is insufferable.
Again, he says, “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?” In answer to this, I should say, that as a general punishment, I think those men ought to be rebuked as uncle Peter recommends: but in his particular case, I would recommend some more sanguinary punishment; for such punishments as rebuke will be forever lost upon one of such superlative hardihoood [ sic ] and as he possesses—he has been more than rebuked these twenty years.