Best Stories about Abe Lincoln – The Lightning Rod

The Lightning Rod

When Lincoln was a candidate for re-election to the Illinois Legislature in 1836, a meeting was held in the court house in Springfield, at which candidates of opposing parties were to speak.

George Forquer was a prominent citizen of Springfield. He had been a Whig, but became a Democrat – possibly to secure the position of Government Land Register from President Andrew Jackson. He had the largest and finest house in the city, and there was a striking addition to it, called a lightning-rod!

Forquer, although not a candidate, asked to be heard for the Democrats, to reply to Lincoln. He was a good speaker, and well known throughout the county. His special task that day was to attack and ridicule the young man from Salem.

Turning to Lincoln, who stood within a few feet of him, he said: “This young man must be taken down, and I am truly sorry that the task devolves upon me.” He then proceeded to attack Lincoln in a very overbearing way, and with an air of great superiority. He was fluent and adept at rough sarcasm. He ridiculed Lincoln’s appearance, dress, and opinions so fiercely that Lincoln’s friends feared the he would be too embarrassed to respond.

Lincoln stood calm, but his flashing eye and pale cheek indicated his indignation. Lincoln took the podium and stated,

“The gentleman commenced his speech by saying that ‘this young man,’ alluding to me, must be taken down. I am not so young in years as I am in the tricks and the trades of a politician, but, live long or die young, I would rather die now than, like the gentleman (pointing to Forquer), change my politics and with the change receive an office worth $3,000 a year. And then, feel obliged to erect a lightning-rod over my house, to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God!”

 

Lincoln home in Springfield, IL with no lightning rod attached!

 

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This story is a recollection of a speech made by Lincoln in 1836, as told to William Herndon by Lincoln’s long time pal Joshua Speed. From, How Abraham Lincoln Used Stories to Touch Hearts, Minds and Funny Bones, by Terry Sprouse.

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