The twenty-three year old declared himself a candidate for the Illinois state legislature. The Sangamo Journal published his campaign platform. He was all for internal improvements—roads, canals, and railroads—and he declared that education was “the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” The candidate concluded his platform with a special plea:
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,
Today marks the 175th anniversary of that election.
Though Lincoln was not elected to the state legislature in 1832, he had reason to feel satisfied with his performance. He had received 277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct, where he was well-known.
More than a quarter-century later, as he prepared to run for the presidency, Lincoln looked back on his unsuccessful bid for the legislature. It had been “the only time I ever have been beaten by the people,” he proudly concluded.
Lincoln would run for the state legislature two years later, was successfully elected, and reelected three more times.