A Presidential Candidate
I have pretty much made up my mind to run for President.
What the country wants is a candidate who cannot be injured
by investigation of his past history, so that the enemies of the
party will be unable to rake up anything against him that
nobody ever heard of before. If you know the worst about
a candidate, to begin with, every attempt to spring things
on him will be checkmated. Now I am going to enter the
field with an open record.
I am going to own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done, and if any Congressional committee is disposed to prowl around my biography in the
hope of discovering any dark and deadly deed that I have
secreted, why—let it prowl.
In the first place, I admit that I treed a rheumatic grandfather of mine in the winter of 1850. He was old and inexpert in climbing trees, but with the heartless brutality that is
characteristic of me, I ran him out of the front door in his night
shirt at the point of a shotgun, and caused him to bowl up a
maple tree, where he remained all night, while I emptied shot
into his legs. I did this because he snored. I will do it again if I
ever have another grandfather. I am as inhuman now as I was
I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at the battle
of Gettysburg. My friends have tried to smooth over this fact
by asserting that I did so for the purpose of imitating Washington,
who went into the woods at Valley Forge for the
purpose of saying his prayers. It was a miserable subterfuge.
I struck out in a straight line for the Tropic of Cancer because
I was scared. I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to
have somebody else save it. I entertain that preference yet. If
the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s
mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon
is empty. If it is loaded, my immortal and inflexible purpose
is to get over the fence and go home. My invariable practice
in war has been to bring out of every fight two-thirds more
men than when I went in. This seems to me to be Napoleonic
in its grandeur.
My financial views are of the most decided character, but
they are not likely, perhaps, to increase my popularity with
the advocates of inflation. I do not insist upon the special
supremacy of rag money or hard money. The great fundamental principle
of my life is to take any kind I can get.
The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine
was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to
be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does
that unfit me for the Presidency? The Constitution of our country does not say so.
No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?
I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man. I regard
the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted
raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be
made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and
to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject in my first message. My campaign cry will be: “Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages.”
These are about the worst parts of my record. On them I
come before the country. If my country don’t want me, I will
go back again. But I recommend myself as a safe man—a man
who starts from the basis of total depravity and proposes to
be fiendish to the last.
The above screed was lifted reverently and verbatim from the multi-volume definitive text of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF MARK TWAIN published by The Library of America.
This link is very enlightening. Garfield won the electoral college, but less than 2000 in the popular vote separated him from Hancock. We are still struggling with many of the same issues.