A few months ago I was nominated for Governor of the great State of New York, to run against Mr Stewart L. Woodford and Mr John T. Hoffman on an independent ticket. I somehow felt that I had one prominent advantage over these gentlemen and that was-good character. It was easy to see by the newspapers that, if ever they had known what it was to bear a good name, that time had gone by. It was plain that in these latter years they had become familiar with all manner of shameful crimes. But at the very moment that I was exalting my advantage and joying in it in secret, there was a muddy undercurrent of discomfort “riling” the deeps of my happiness, and that was-the having to hear my name bandied about in familiar connection with those of such people. I grew more and more disturbed. Finally I wrote my grandmother about it. Her answer came quick and sharp. She said:
“You have never done a single thing in all your life to be ashamed of-not one. Look at the newspapers – look at them and comprehend what sort of characters Messrs Woodford and Hoffman are, and then see if you are willing to lower yourself to their level and enter a public canvass with them.”
It was my very thought. I did not sleep a single moment that night. But after all I could not recede. I was fully committed, and must go on with the fight.
As I was looking listlessly over the papers at breakfast I came across this paragraph, and I may truly say I never was so confounded before:
“PERJURY.-Perhaps, now that Mr. Mark Twain is before the people as a candidate for Governor, he will condescend to explain how he came to be convicted of perjury by thirty-four witnesses in Wakawak, Cochin China, in 1863, the intent of which perjury being to rob a poor native widow and her helpless family of a meagre plantain-patch, their only stay and support in their bereavement and desolation. Mr. Twain owes it to himself, as well as to the great people whose suffrages
he asks, to clear this matter up. Will he do it?”
I thought I should burst with amazement! Such a cruel, heartless charge! I never had seen Cochin China! I never had heard of Wakawak! I didn’t know a plantain-patch from a kangaroo! I did not know what to do. I was crazed and helpless. I let the day slip away without doing anything at all. The next morning the same paper had this-nothing more:
“SIGNIFICANT.-Mr. Twain, it will be observed, is suggestively silent about the Cochin China perjury.”
[Mem.-During the rest of the campaign this paper never referred to me in any other way than as “the infamous perjurer Twain.”]
Next came the Gazette, with this:
“WANTED TO KNOW.-Will the new candidate for Governor deign to explain to certain of his fellow-citizens (who are suffering to vote for him!) the little circumstance of his cabin-mates in Montana losing small valuable from time to time, until at last, these things having been invariably found on Mr. Twain’s person or in his ‘trunk’ (newspaper he rolled his traps in), they felt compelled to give him a friendly admonition for his own good, and so tarred and feathered him, and rode him on a rail, and then advised him to leave a permanent vacuum in the place he usually occupied in the camp. Will he do this?”
Could anything be more deliberately malicious than that? For I never was in Montana in my life.
[After this, this journal customarily spoke of me as “Twain, the Montana Thief.”]
I got to picking up papers apprehensively-much as one would lift a desired blanket which he had some idea might have a rattlesnake under it. One day this met my eye:
“THE LIE NAILED.