Letter from a Young Man Seeking Office
February 24, 2012
On some days I feel at a loss for words. At those times I try to find a good book, hoping that the glibness of its author might transfer such talent to me.
I found a letter from a young man, aged 23, seeking office for the first time. He addressed a public letter to his electors, the people of Sangamo County, Illinois. He concluded it as follows:
But, Fellow-Citizens, I shall conclude. Considering the great degree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable I have already been more presuming than becomes me. However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but holding it a sound maxim, that it is better to be only sometimes right, than at all times wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed. I am young and unknown to many of you. I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of this 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 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. Your friend and fellow-citizen,
New Salem, March 9, 1832
Indeed every man has his peculiar ambition. With my only voice I ask that the good people choosing their preferred candidates next Tuesday and the following Tuesday, and again in November, weigh the peculiar ambition of the men and women on their ballots, and ask themselves which among those listed has “no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of [his] fellow men, by rendering [himself] worthy of their esteem.”