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Mark Twain on Politics: A man’s first duty is to his own honor

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M-TOPP: Mark Twain on Politics and Politicians

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A man’s first duty is to his own honor; not to his country and not to his party.

It is easy to despair about the state of the current political environment and with some justification, but for those who believe politics has reached its nadir… well consider that among other things, Abraham Lincoln was referred to as “the obscene ape of Illinois.”

The election of 1884 featured Democrat Grover Cleveland who had fathered a child outside of marriage – “Maw, Maw, where’s my paw?” was a constant refrain from supporters of corrupt Republican candidate James Blaine who had been castigated for accepting bribes from railroad interests.

Given this climate, Mark Twain – who prior to the 1884 election voted Republican – had much to say and that “a man’s first duty is to his own honor; not to his country and not to his party.”

To his good friend William Dean Howells, he wrote:

“Somehow I can’t seem to rest quiet under the idea of your voting for Blaine. I believe you said something about the country and the party. Certainly allegiance to these is well; but as certainly a man’s first duty is to his own conscience and honor—the party or the country come second to that, and never first. I don’t ask you to vote at all—I only urge you to not Continue reading