Posted by: Democratic Thinker | June 4, 2010

Born Without a Chance


BORN Without a CHANCE.


THE TIME: Napoleonic in Europe. Jeffersonian in America.
THE SCENE: An outlying border state, sometimes called “the dark and bloody ground.”
THE EXACT DATE: February 12,1809.

A SQUALID VILLAGE set in wintry mud.
A hub-deep ox-cart slowly groans and squeaks.
A horseman hails and halts. He shifts his cud
And speaks:—

“Well, did you hear? Tom Lincoln’s wife today.
The devil’s luck for folk as poor as they.
Poor Tom! Poor Nance!
Poor young one! born without a chance!

A baby in that God-forsaken den,
That worse than cattle-pen!
Well, what are they but cattle? Cattle? Tut!
A critter is beef, hide and tallow, but
Who’d swap one for the critters of that hut?
White trash! small fry!
Whose only instinct is to multiply!
They’re good at that,
And so, to-day, God wot! another brat!

A squawking, squalling, red-faced good-for-naught
Spilled on the world, heaven only knows for what.
Better if he were black,
For then he’d have a shirt upon his back
And something in his belly as he grows.
More than he’s like to have, as I suppose.
Yet there be those
Who claim ‘equality’ for this new brat,
And that damned democrat
Who squats to-day where Washington once sat,
He’d have it that this Lincoln cub might be
Of even value in the world with you and me!

Yes, Jefferson, Tom Jefferson, who but he?
Who even hints that black men should be free.
That feather-headed fool would tell you, maybe
A president might lie in this new baby!
In this new squawker born without a rag
To hide himself! Good God, it makes me gag!
This human-spawn
Born for a world to wipe its feet upon
A few years hence, but now
More helpless than the litter of a sow,
And—Oh, well! send the women-folks to Nance.”

“Poor little devil! born without a chance!”

—Edmund Vance Cooke.




  1. This poem Born Without a Chance, I believe was included in one of Dale Carnegies books. I’ve looked for it and cannot find it. Does anyone know which book that might be…?