Peter Cartwright

This circuit-riding Methodist minister opposed Abraham Lincoln in his campaign for the United States Congress in 1846. Cartwright moved westward to Illinois after a childhood in Kentucky and served two terms in the Illinois State Legislature. There, despite his religious orientation, he remained an opponent of reform movements. Unlike Lincoln, another Kentucky youth, Cartwright did not advocate education and refinement. Rather, he remained an advocate of the fire and brimstone religion of camp meetings, shorn of the message of progress and civilization that became the core of the Whig political ideology. In the campaign of 1846 Cartwright attacked Lincoln on the question of his religious beliefs, in response to persistent rumors that Lincoln was a deist or unbeliever. Running strongly in a predominantly Whig district, Lincoln deftly parried Cartwright's blunt attack. In a handbill he admitted that he was not a church member, but claimed he had "never denied the truth of the Scriptures." Cartwright's charges failed to derail a successful campaign, and Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives.

The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright is available on Lincoln/Net. Please click on the title to view the book.