1848 : Michigander or Michiganian?

May 29, 2018 all-day

Abraham Lincoln left Michigan one lasting legacy that remains the subject of some debate. It concerns the correct term for a Michigan resident. Gubernatorial candidates Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder have both expressed a preference for the term “Michigander” over “Michiganian.” Current Governer Jennifer Granholm and her two predecessors have expressed preferences for the latter term.

One wonders if Lincoln would have an opinion. He is attributed with the first known use of “Michigander.” In 1848, he used the word to describe former Michigan territorial governor Lewis Cass. That year, Cass was the Democratic Presidential candidate, and Lincoln was in the rival Whig Party. Lincoln accused the Democrats of “dovetailing onto the great Michigander” and then “tying him to a military tail.” In A. Lincoln: A Biography, Robert C. White explains this bit of clever wordplay: The Democrats were running Cass as a military hero, touting their candidates’ War of 1812 exploits. Lincoln was essentially calling Cass “a silly goose” (“gander” being a term for a male goose) and accusing the Democrats of inflating Cass’ military record (i.e. tying the “goose” to “a military tail.”)

This information will, of course, likely not end the debate on whether “Michigander” is a proper term. It does, however, provide yet another example of how Lincoln’s life and words remain relevant in the modern day.

Source : Bob Garrett, Abraham Lincoln’s Michigan, Seeking Michigan, August 24, 2010.

Leave a Reply