The proudest now is but my peer1,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
To-day alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box2 my throne!
Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth3 counts no more
Than homespun frock4 of gray.
To-day let pomp and vain pretence5
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s6 pride.
To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!
While there’s a grief to seek redress7,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon8’s vilest dust, –
While there’s a right to need my vote
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted9 knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day!
1 Peer = ”the same as I am”
2 Ballot-box = place where votes are collected
3 Broadcloth = fancy material used for coats
4 Frock = ”frock coat,” a man’s dressy coat
5 Pomp and vain pretence = ”showing off”
6 Pendant = a showy person
7 Redress = a remedy for a wrong action
8 Mammon = getting money by evil means
9 Clouted = ”battered” ?
John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Poor Voter on Election Day”, 1852. National Archives, Waltham, MA.