Shermanesque statement

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"Sherman(esque) statement" or "Sherman speech" is American political jargon for a clear and direct statement by a potential candidate indicating that he or she will not run for a particular elected position.

The term derives from the Sherman pledge, a remark made by American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman when he was being considered as a possible Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1884. He declined, saying, "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected." Thirteen years prior, he had similarly asserted, "I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve."[1] These statements are often abbreviated as "If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve."[2]


President Lyndon B. Johnson famously invoked the pledge in his March 31, 1968, national address announcing that he would not seek a second full term, saying "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president."[3]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt inverted the pledge in 1944, stating that he felt obligated to serve if nominated: "If the people command me to continue in this office and in this war, I have as little right to withdraw as the soldier has to leave his post in the line."[4] Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted "to use words similar to Sherman's" when many asked him in the 1940s to run for the presidency, but did not because he believed that no one "has the right to state, categorically, that he will not perform any duty that his country might demand of him".[5]

Since then, journalists have often pushed for potential candidates to give a Sherman pledge in lieu of a less definitive answer. In 1983, Democratic Congressman Mo Udall of Arizona, who was noted for his wit and who had campaigned for president in 1976, was asked if he would run in the 1984 election. Udall responded, "If nominated, I shall run to Mexico. If elected, I shall fight extradition."[6]

When asked by Fox News whether he would pursue the presidency in 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney quoted Sherman's statement nearly word-for-word.[7] When Ohio Governor Ted Strickland endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he issued the Sherman pledge word for word when asked if he wanted to be selected as her vice presidential running mate.[8] He reiterated it when asked if he wanted to be Barack Obama's running mate after Obama had clinched the nomination.[9] David Petraeus quoted Sherman when asked about a presidential bid in 2012.[10]

In June 2004, the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said that "if nominated I'll decline. If drafted I'll defer. And if elected I'll resign," in response to questions about whether he would seek the leadership. A month later, he changed his mind and stood for the leadership, later becoming the First Minister of Scotland.[11]

In 1928, Calvin Coolidge used starkly simple terms in response to being questioned as to whether he would seek a second full term. He stated: "I do not choose to run."[12]

In 1950, at the building up of tensions that led to the 1964 Military Coup, Brazilian politician Carlos Lacerda allegedly said about his rival Getúlio Vargas: ''Mr. Vargas, as a Senator, must not run as presidential candidate. If he runs, must not be elected. Elected, must not take office. Having taken office, we should resort to revolution for preventing him of governing.''


  1. ^ Keyes in Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations, p. 13.
  2. ^ John F. Marszalek in Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, California: 2002, ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-382-3, p. 1769.
  3. ^ Remarks on Decision not to Seek Re-Election (March 31, 1968) by Lyndon Baines Johnson
  4. ^ Goodwin, Doris Kearns (1994). No Ordinary Time. Simon & Schuster. p. 524. ISBN 9780684804484. 
  5. ^ Pusey, Merlo J. (1956). Eisenhower, the President. Macmillan. pp. 1–4. 
  6. ^ Powell, Michael (2009-04-18). "The Wits of Washington, Amateur Variety". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  7. ^ White House Archives Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity
  8. ^ The Columbus Dispatch : Gov. Strickland endorses Hillary Clinton for president
  9. ^ The Washington Post : Strickland Takes Himself Out of the Vice Presidential Running
  10. ^ "Generally Speaking". The New York Times. April 6, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Salmond launches leadership bid". BBC. 15 July 2004. Retrieved 25 June 2009. 
  12. ^ Greenberg, David (2006). Calvin Coolidge: The American Presidents Series: The 30th President, 1923-1929. MacMillan. p. 137. ISBN 9781466823044. 

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