Portrait of the Emancipator as a young attack dog

President Obama’s hasn’t had much luck with his surrogate candidates so far. Deval Patrick, in particular, was a flop.

I expect to Obama to find better surrogates. But neither he nor Mitt Romney will find one to rival Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln served that role in the election of 1848 on behalf of Gen. Zachary Taylor, the Whig candidate. Lincoln’s job was to attack the Democratic nominee, Lewis Cass.

Taylor was the hero of the Mexican War, and the Whigs played this for all it was worth — Taylor having no other major credentials for the presidency. Cass was what we today would call a “career politician,” but Democrats countered by talking up his role during the War of 1812. Cass helped lead an unsuccessful invasion of Canada, and later served as an aide to Gen. William Henry Harrison.

Lincoln wasn’t buying it though, as this statement on House floor, which he used on the stump as well, shows:

[Cass] invaded Canada without resistance and outvaded it without pursuit. As he did both under orders, I suppose there was to him neither credit nor discredit to it.

He was a volunteer aide to General Harrison on the day of the Battle of the Thames. And, as you [the partisan Democrats] said in 1840 [when Harrison ran for president] Harrison was picking huckleberries two miles off while the battle was fought, I suppose it is a just conclusion with you to say that Cass was aiding Harrison to pick huckleberries.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military hero? Yes sir, in the days of the Black Hawk War, I fought bled, and came away. If General Cass was ahead of me in picking huckleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had many a bloody struggle with mosquitoes. And although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.

Mr. Speaker, if ever I should conclude to doff whatever our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade federalism about me* and therefore they shall take me up as their candidate for the Presidency, I protest they shall not make fun of me, as they have of General Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero.

Ouch.

*Here Lincoln pokes fun at Cass by reference to the charge that Cass was originally a Federalist and had opportunistically switched to the Democratic Party. The black cockade was an emblem worn by Federalists.

The charge was ridiculous. Cass entered politics at a young age as a Jeffersonian in the very early years of the 19th century, much to the chagrin of his father, an ardent Federalist who had served under General Washington. If Cass ever wore a black-cocade, it would have been at about the same age Romney was when he allegedly cut that kid’s hair.

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