Guest Columns


Washington, D.C. — ‘The Great Volcano’

The Colorado Statesman

Instead of a column this week, I wanted to share a quote I recently came across, penned by our greatest President at a relatively young age (30).

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, right-wing, left-wing, or somewhere in between, you have no doubt heard an example of overly provocative political speech or writing which not only was in opposition to your own point of view, but was also overblown and dramatic.

I made note of this Lincoln quote to use it as a “key” to keeping my temper under control when I believe an opponent is overstating his or her case — I will simply ask, is this statement I’m listening to more “over-the-top” than Abraham Lincoln might have stated it?

Consider the following alarming peroration from Lincoln’s speech on the Sub-Treasury, delivered in Springfield, IL, and dated December 26, 1839:

“I know that the great volcano at Washington, aroused and directed by the evil spirit that reigns there, is belching forth the lava of political corruption, in a current broad and deep, which is sweeping with frightful velocity over the whole length and breadth of the land, bidding fair to leave unscathed no green spot or living thing, while on its bosom are riding like demons on the waves of Hell, the imps of that evil spirit, and fiendishly taunting all those who dare resist its destroying course, with the hopelessness of their effort; and knowing this, I cannot deny that all may be swept away.”

OK, so I guess that “blaming Washington” has been a preferred political rhetorical device since long before the construction of I-495 gave us our “Inside the Beltway” metaphor. Next time you want to “dis” the politicians and lobbyists in Washington, D.C., try to do better than “riding like demons on the waves of Hell…”

That the man who coined so many immortal phrases and images of who we are as a nation could have also crafted and uttered these words, and about the freaking “Sub-Treasury” and President Martin Van Buren no less, makes me smile — particularly in 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1) and the Gettysburg Address (November 19).

Patrick Teegarden is a legislative liaison to a state governmental agency and a Civil War buff who shares his knowledge with Statesman readers. He can be reached at: