“The Hearty Support of his Neighbors at New Salem, 1832″

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The return of the Black Hawk warriors to New Salem occurred in the month of August, but a short time before the general election. A new Legislature was to be chosen, and as Lincoln had declared to his comrades in the army he would, and in obedience to the effusive declaration of principles which he had issued over his signature in March, before he went to the war, he presented himself to the people of his newly adopted county as a candidate for the Legislature. 

The circular is dated March 9, 1832, and addressed to the “People of Sangamon County.” In it he takes up all the leading questions of the day: railroads, river navigation, internal improvements, and usury. He dwells particularly on the matter of public education, alluding to it as the most important subject before the people. Realizing his own defects arising from a lack of school instruction he contends that every man and his children, however poor, should be permitted to obtain at least a moderate education, and thereby be enabled “to read the Scriptures and other works both of a moral and religious nature for themselves.” The closing paragraph was so constructed as to appeal to the chivalrous sentiments of Clary’s Grove. “I was born and have ever remained,” he declares, “in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relatives or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of the county; and if elected they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But if,” he dryly concludes, “the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.”
The election being near at hand only a few days remained for his canvass. One who was with him at the time describing his appearance, says: “He wore a mixed jeans coat, clawhammer style, short in the sleeves and bobtail-in fact it was so short in the tail he could not sit on it; flax and tow-linen pantaloons, and a straw hat. I think he wore a vest, but do not remember how it looked. He wore pot-metal boots.” His maiden effort on the stump was a speech on the occasion of a public sale at Pappsville, a village eleven miles west of Springfield. After the sale was over and speech-making had begun, a fight-a “general fight,” as one of the bystanders relates-ensued, and Lincoln, noticing one of his friends about to succumb to the energetic attack of an infuriated ruffian, interposed to prevent it. He did so most effectually.
Hastily descending from the rude platform he edged his way through the crowd, and seizing the bully by the neck and seat of his trowsers, threw him by means of his strength and long arms, as one witness stoutly insists, “twelve feet away.” Returning to the stand and throwing aside his hat he inaugurated his campaign with the following brief but juicy declaration:

“Fellow Citizens, I presume you all know who I am. I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank. I am in favor of the internal improvement system and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles. If elected I shall be thankful; if not it will be all the same.”
I obtained this speech from A. Y. Ellis, who in 1865 wrote it out. Ellis was his friend and supporter, and took no little interest in his canvass. “I accompanied him,” he relates, “on one of his electioneering trips to Island Grove, and he made a speech which pleased his party friends very well indeed, though some of the Jackson men tried to make sport of it. He told several anecdotes, and applied them, as I thought, very well. He also told the boys several stories which drew them after him. I remember them, but modesty and my veneration for his memory forbid me to relate them.” His story-telling propensity, and the striking fitness of his yarns-many of them being of the bar-room order-in illustrating public questions, as we shall see further along in these chapters, was really one of the secrets of his popularity and strength. The election, as he had predicted, resulted in his defeat-the only defeat, as he himself afterward stated, that he ever suffered at the hands of the people. But there was little defeat in it after all. Out of the eight unsuccessful candidates he stood third from the head of the list, receiving 657 votes. Five others received less. The most gratifying feature of it all was the hearty support of his neighbors at New Salem. Of the entire 208 votes in the precinct he received every one save three.
It may not be amiss to explain the cause of this remarkable endorsement of Lincoln by the voters in New Salem. It arose chiefly from his advocacy of the improvement of the Sangamon river. He proposed the digging of a canal a few miles east of the point where the Sangamon enters the Illinois river, thereby giving the former two mouths. This, he explained to the farmers, would prevent the accumulation of back-water and consequent overflow of their rich alluvial bottom lands in the spring. It would also avert the sickness and evil results of stagnant pools, which formed in low places after the high waters receded. His scheme-that is the name by which it would be known to-day-commended itself to the judgment of his neighbors, and the flattering vote he received shows how they endorsed it.

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” 

2 thoughts on ““The Hearty Support of his Neighbors at New Salem, 1832″

    Politics « Abraham Lincoln said:
    December 8, 2015 at 11:59

    […] The Hearty Support Of His Neighbors At New Salem, 1832 […]

    Words : Statesman « Abraham Lincoln said:
    April 13, 2020 at 14:51

    […] “The Hearty Support Of His Neighbors At New Salem,” in 1832 […]

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