"The Standing Candidate: His Excuse for Being a Bachelor" by John S. Robb (1847)

At Buffalo Head, Niauga County, State of Missouri, during the canvass of 1844, there was held an extensive political Barbecue, and the several candidates for Congress, legislature, county offices, &c. were all congregated at this southern point for the making of an immense demonstration. Hards, softs, Whigs and Tylerites were represented, and to hear their several expositions of state and general policy, a vast gathering of the Missouri sovereigns had also assembled. While the important candidates were awaiting the signal to mount the "stump," an odd-looking old man made his appearance at the brow of a small hill bounding the place of meeting.

"Hurrah for Old Sugar!" shouted a hundred voices, while on steadily progressed the object of their cheer.

Sugar, as he was familiarly called, was an old man, apparently about fifty years of age, and was clad in a coarse suit of brown linsey-woolsey. His pants were patched at each knee, and around the ankles they had worn off into picturesque points. His coat was not of the modem closefitting cut, but hung in loose and easy folds upon his broad shoulders, while the total absence of buttons upon this garment exhibited the owner's contempt for the storm and the tempest. A coarse shirt, tied at the neck with a piece of twine, completed his body covering. His head was ornamented with an old woolen cap, of divers colors, below which beamed a broad, humorous countenance, flanked by a pair of short, funny little grey whiskers. A few wrinkles marked his brow, but time could not count them as sure chronicles of his progress, for Sugar's hearty, sonorous laugh oft drove them from their hiding place. Across his shoulder was thrown a sack, in each end of which he was bearing to the scene of political action a keg of brand new whiskey, of his own manufacture, and he strode forward on his moccasin-covered feet, encumbered as he was, with all the agility of youth. Sugar had long been the standing candidate of Niauga County for the legislature, and founded his claim to the office upon the face of his being the first squatter in that countyhis having killed the first bear there, ever killed by a white man, and, to place his right beyond cavil, he had 'stilled the first keg of whiskey. These were strong claims, which urged in his comic rhyming matter, would have swept the diggins, but Sugar, when the canvass opened, always yielded his claim to some liberal purchaser of his fluid, and duly announced himself as a candidate for the next term.

"Here you air, old fellar!" shouted an acquaintance, "allays on hand 'bout 'lection."

"Well, Nat.," said Sugar, "you've just told the truth as easy as if you'd taken some of my mixtur-

'Whar politicians congregate,
I'm allays there, at any rate!'"

"Set him up! set the old fellow up somewhere, and let us take a universal liquor!" was the general shout.

"Hold on, boys-keep cool and shady," said Old Sugar. "Where's the candidates? None of your splurgin round till I git an appropriation for the spirits. Send them along and we'll negotiate for the fluid, a'ter which I shall gin 'em my instructions, and they may then proceed to

"Talk away like all creation
What they knows about the nation."

The candidates were accordingly summoned up to pay for Sugar's portable grocery, and to please the crowd and gain the good will of the owner, they made up a purse and gathered round him. Sugar had placed his two kegs upon a broad stump and seated himself astride of them, with a small tin cup in his hand and a paper containing brown sugar lying before him-each of his kegs was furnished with a spigot. And as soon as the money for the whole contents was paid in, Sugar commenced addressing the crowd as follows:

"Boys, fellows, and candidates," said he, "I, Sugar, am the first white man ever seed in these-here diggins. I killed the first bear ever a white skinned in this county, and I calculate I have hurt the feelings of his relations some since, as the bear-skin linin of my cabin will testify. 'Sides that, I'm the first manufacturer of whiskey in the range of this district, and powerful mixtur it is, too, as the whole Wilin of fellows in this crowd will declare -more'n that, I'm a candidate for the legislatur, and intend to gin up my claim this term, to the fellow who can talk the prettiest. Now, finally, at the eend, boys, this mixtur of mine will make a fellow talk as oily as goose grease -as sharp as lightnin and as per-suadin as a young gal at a quiltin. So don't spare it while it lasts, and the candidates kin drink first, 'cause they've got to do the talkin!"

Having finished his charge, he filled the tin cup full of whiskey, put in a handful of brown sugar, and with his forefinger stirred up the sweetening. Then surveying the candidates he pulled off his cap, remarking as he did so:

"Old age, allays, afore beauty! your daddy first, in course." Then holding up the cup, he offered a toast, as follows:

"Here is to the string that binds the states; may it never be bit apart by political rats!" Then holding up the cup to his head, he had a hearty swig, and passed it to the next oldest looking candidate. While they were tasting it, Sugar kept up a fire of lingo at them:

"Pass it along lively, gentlemen, but don't spare the fluid. You can't help tellin truth a'ter you've swallowed enough of my mixtur, just for this reason: it's been 'stilled in honesty, rectified in truth, and poured out with wisdom. Take a leetle drop more," said he to a fastidious candidate, whose stomach turned at thought of the way the mixtur was mixed. "Why, Mister," said Sugar, coaxingly,

"If you were a baby, just new born,
'Twould do you good, this juicy corn."

"No more, I thank you," said the candidate, drawing back from the proffer.

Sugar winked his eye at some of his cronies, and muttered, "He's got an a-ristocracy stomach, and can't go the native licker." Then dismissing the candidates, he shouted, "Crowd up, constitooents, into a circle, and let's begin fair-your daddy first, allays. And mind, no changin places in the circle to git the sugar in the bottom of the cup. I know you're a'ter it, Tom Williams; but none on your Yankeein round to git the sweetnin-it's all syrup, fellows, 'cause Sugar made and mixed it. The gals at the frolics allays git me to prepare the cordials, 'cause they say I make it mighty drinkable. What you, old Ben Dent!- Well, hold your hoss for a minute, and I'll sweeten the tin with a speck more, just because you can calculate the value of the liquor, and do it justice!"

Thus chatted Sugar as he measured out and sweetened up the contents of his kegs, until all who would drink had taken their share, and then the crowd assembled around the speakers. We need not say that the virtues of each political party were duly set forth to the hearersthat follows as a matter of course, candidates dwell upon the strong points of their argument, always. One among them, however, more than his compeers, attracted the attention of our friend Sugar, not because he had highly commended the contents of his kegs, but because he painted with truth and feeling the claims of the western pioneers! Among these he ranked the veteran Col. johnson and his compatriots, and as he rehearsed their struggles in defense of their firesides, how they had been trained to war by their conflict with the ruthless savage, their homes oft desolated and their children murdered,-yet still, ever foremost in the fight and last to retreat, winning the heritage of these broad valleys for their children, against the opposing arm of the red man, though aided by the civilized power of mighty Britain and her serried cohorts of trained soldiery! We say as he dwelt upon these themes Sugar's eye would fire up, and then, at some touching passage of distress dwelt on by the speaker, tears would course down his rude cheek. When the speaker concluded, he wiped his eyes with his head bowed, and said to those around him:

"That arr true as the yearth! there's suthin like talk in that fellow? He's the right breed, and his old daddy has told him about them times. So did mine relate 'em to me, how the only sister 1 ever had, when a baby had her brains dashed out by one of the red-skinned devils. But didn't we pepper them for it? Didn't I help the old man, afore he grew too weak to hold his shooting iron, to send a few on 'em off to rub out the account? Well, I did!-Hey!" and shutting his teeth together, he yelled through them the exultation of full vengeance.

The speaking being done, candidates and hearers gathered round old Sugar, to hear his comments upon the speeches and to many inquiries of how he had liked them, the old man answered:-

"They were all pretty good, but that tall fellow they call Tom, from St. Louis; you, 1 mean, stranger," pointing at the same time to the candidate, "you just scairt up my feelins to the right p'int-you just made me feel as when 1 and old dad were a'ter the red varmints; and now, what'll you take? I'm goin to publicly decline in your favor."

Pouring out a tin full of the liquor, and stirring it as before, he stood upright on the stump, with a foot on each side of his kegs, and drawing off his cap, toasted:

"To the memory of the western pioneers!"

A shout responded to his toast, which echoed far away in the depths of the adjoining forest, and seemed to awaken a response from the spirits of those departed heroes.

"That's the way to sing it out, boys," responded Old Sugar. "Such a yell as that would care an enemy into ague fits, and make the United States Eagle scream, 'Hail, Columby!"

"While you're up, Sugar, said one of the crowd, "give us a stump speech yourself."

"Bravo!" shouted an hundred voices, "a speech from Sugar."

"Agreed, boys," said the old man. "I'll just gin you a few words to wind up with; so keep quiet while your daddy's talkin'

"Some tell it out just like a song,
I'll gin it to you sweet and strong."

"The on'y objection ever made to me in this-ere county, as a legislator, was made by the women, 'cause I war a bachelor, and I never told you afore why I re-mained in the state of number one-no fellow stays single pre-meditated, and, in course, a handsome fellow like me, who all the gals declare to be as enticin as ajaybird, wam't goin to stay alone, if he could help it. I did see a creatur, once, named Sofy Mason, up the Cumberland, nigh onto Nashville, Tennesee, that I tuck an awful hankerin a'ter, and 1 sot in to lookin anxious for matrimony, and gin to go reg'lar to meetin, and tuck to dressin tremendous fancified, just to see if I could win her good opinion. She did git to lookin at me, and one day, comin from meetin, she was takin a look at me kind of shy, just as a hoss does at suthin he's scairt at, when a'ter champin at a distance for awhile, 1 sidled up to her and blarted out a few words about the sermon. She said yes, but cuss me if 1 know whether that were the right answer or not, and I'm a-thinkin she didn't know then, nuther! Well we laughed and talked a leetle, all the way along to her daddy's, and there I gin her the best bend I had in me, and raised up my brand new hat as peart and polite as a minister, lookin all the time so enticin that I sot the gal tremblin.' Her old daddy had a powerful numerous lot of healthy niggers, and lived right aj'inin my place, while on Cother side lived Jake Simpson-a sneakin, cute varmint, who were worser than a miser for stinginess, and no sooner did this cussed serpent see me sidlin up to Sofy than he went to slickin up too, and sot himself to work to cut me out. That-ere were a struggle equal to the battle of Orleans. First some new fixup of jake's would take her eye, and then I'd sport suthin that would outshine him, until jake at last gin in tryin to outdress me, and sot to thinkin of suthin else. Our farms were just the same number of acres, and we both owned three niggers apiece. jake knew that Sofy and her dad kept a sharp eye out for the main chance, so he thought he'd clear me out by buyin another nigger; but I just followed suit and bought one the day a'ter he got his, so he had no advantage there. He then got a cow, and so did I, and just about then both on our purses gin out. This put jake to his wits' eend, and 1 war a-wonderin what in the yearth he would try next. We stood so, hip and thigh, for about two weeks, both on us talkin sweet to Sofy, whenever we could git her alone. I thought I seed that jake, the sneakin cuss, were gettin a mite ahead of me, 'cause his tongue were so iley; however, I didn't let on but kept a top eye on him. One Sunday momin I were a leetle mite late to meetin, and when I got there the first thing I seed war jake Simpson sittin close bang up agin Sofy, in the same pew with her daddy! I Wiled a spell with wrath, and then turned sour; I could taste myself! There they were singin himes out of the same book. je-e-mny, fellows, I war so enormous mad that the new silk handkercher round my head lost its color. Arter meetin out they walked, linked arms, a-smilin and lookin as pleased as a young couple at their first christenin, and Sofy turned her cold shoulder at me so awful p'inted that I wilted down, and gin up right straight- there were no disputin it! I headed home, with my hands as far in my trousers pocket as I could push 'em, swearin all the way that she were the last one would ever get a chance to rile up my feelins. Passin by jake's plantation I looked over the fence, and there stood an explanation of the matter, right facin the road, where every one passin could see it-his consarned cow was tied to a stake in the garden, with a most promisin calf alongside of her! That calf just soured my milk, and made Sofy think, that a fellow who war allays gettin ahead like jake, were a right smart chance for a lively husband!"

A shout of laughter here drowned Sugar's voice, and as soon as silence was restored, he added, in a solemn tone, with one eye shut, and his forefinger pointing at his auditory:

"What is a cussed sight worser than his gittin Sofy war the fact, that he borrowed the calf the night before from Dick Hartley. Arter the varmint got Sofy hitched, he told the joke all over the settlement, and the boys never seed me a'terwards that they didn't b-a-h at me for lettin a calf cut me out of a gal's affections. I'd a-shotjake, but thought it war a free country, and the gal had a right to her choice without being made a widow, so 1 just sold out and traveled! I've allays thought since then, boys, that women were a good deal like liquor: if you love em too hard, they're sure to throw you some way:

"Then here's to women, then to liquor;
There's nothin swimmin can be slicker!"