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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
Again he says, “Now after these men have come on, 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?” What, in the name of common sense, is it of which uncle Peter is complaining? He has been quarrelling with—nobody knows whom—half down the column of a newspaper, because, as he says, somebody has misrepresented this community by calling it ignorant, &c; when suddenly forgetting himself, he calls this same community an “ uninformed and abused community.”—That he should be heard saying things that he does not believe himself, I do not wonder at; but that after his long dealing in duplicity, he should be found unable to travel half way down the column of a newspaper without crossing his own trail is passing strange. Speaking of his Advocate letter in his “Moral Waste,” Cartwright says, “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, Sec.” Now this is worst of all.
If any of Cartwright’s real friends have a blush left, now is the time to use it. He did not ask for Methodist teachers! Will any man risk his reputation for common sense by pretending to believe this? Mark the circumstances. He was writing to the editor of the only Methodist periodical published in the nation—a paper seldomly opened by any but Methodists—so much so that although the letter had been published some considerable time, and the paper had many subscribers in Sangamon county, so far as I can learn, no eye, save that of a Methodist ever beheld it till the editor of the Pioneer, through the medium of his exchange list, I suppose, discovered it and republished a part of it.
Does this look like a general invitation to all who were opposed to American or National Societies?—To me it appears a general invitation to particular individuals—something of a public call made in a private way.
But this is not all—“These teachers were asked of the older States conferences”—mark the word conferences . Now I may be mistaken, but if I am not, no church except the mothodist [ sic ] has the word conference in its whole technical vocabulary. I will here venture a legal opinion: If asking for methodist teachers were a crime of the magnitude of homicide, none of Cartwright’s gentlemen of the bar, could be found able, intelligent and learned enough to save his neck from the halter—(no insinuations that the said neck ever deserved such a fate.) as I have before said, I have not the Advocate letter before me, neither can I recollect what Cartwright said in it about American and National societies, or whether he said any thing. I am, however confident he said nothing against them; and I well recollect, he, in terms congratulated the editor upon a late accession of members to the Temperance Society.
A few more words and I shall have done. The sum totum of this matter is this: None has a greater thirst for political distinction than Peter Cartwright. When he wrote his Advocate letter he had no intention that any western man, save probably a few of his militia should see it: but, unfortunately, it was discovered. This was a trying time with Peter. He saw, as any man might have seen, that the effect of this letter was fastening itself upon his poltical [ sic ] prospects with the benumbing embrace of an incubus, and weighing them down wiht [ sic ] the weight of a mountain. Then came his “Moral Waste,” which is nothing more nor less than an effort to shake off the effect of the Advocate letter. But it is a failure. He will have to shake again.
Poor ghost of ambition! He must have two sets of opinions, one for his religious, and one for his political friends; and to plat them together smoothly, presents a task to which his feverish brain is incompetent. —Let the Advocate letter and the “Moral Waste, No. 1” be presented to an intelligent stranger, and be told that they are the productions of the same man, and he will be much puzzled to decide whether the auther [sic] is greater fool or knave; although he may readily see that he has but few rivals in either capacity.