Lord help us; We're in the midst of ANOTHER presidential election campaign. (When aren't we anymore?) The mud is slinging hither and yon and the press is rising to the bait like a pack of hyenas. Even for those of us who are political wonks, this public carnival is tiresome after a while and I often long for a return to the "gentler and kinder Good Old Days." But were they really all that different and somehow less nasty?
The other day I heard an interview with a presidential historian (sorry, I did not retain his name) and he stated that our Forefathers would be delighted at how civil our current political discussion is as compared with that of earlier days! This brought to mind the title of a wonderful old history book by Otto Bettman called, "The Good Old Days -- They Were Terrible!" I read it back in college, and while it mostly dealt with society, poverty, wealth distribution and disease, it did so with a political overlay.
These two notions of the falseness of nostalgia and the occasional feel of nausea by our modern Public Servants was reinforced by the article I stumbled on a few weeks ago. It reinforces the idea of the strident nature of commentary on the background of the Lincoln Assassination and the civil and public reaction to it.
“A Sweet-Tempered Friend,” NEW YORK TIMES, June 4, 1865
“The following amiable paragraph is taken from the Quebec Daily News, in which it is printed as a prominent editorial. Its gentle Christian spirit, and kind, neighborly tone, will attract attention without special remark. The denunciation of the leading officers of the United States Government as swindlers and thieves, is a graceful compliment, considering the source from which it comes:
“BOOTH's CAPTOR's. -- We see by our American fyles that a dispute as to the real captors of BOOTH, and the party entitled to the reward of $80,000, has arisen at Washington, which is likely to lead to some trouble, and to involve at least one of the executive in a most disgraceful and scandalous transaction. It will be remembered that BOOTH and his accomplice HERROLD were hunted down at GARRETT's farm, by a party of cavalry under command of Lieut. DOHERTY, a young Canadian belonging to St. Hyacinthe, but well known in this city while pursuing his studies here. BOOTH was killed by one of DOHERTY's men named BOSTON CORBETT, and his body brought to Washington, but Lieut. DOHERTY and his men were immediately ordered away on special duty by Secretary STANTON, for reasons that are now beginning to leak out. The immense reward of $80,000 offered for BOOTH's capture had turned every citizen in the North into a blood-hound. Col. BAKER, who is chief of the detective force, it was supposed would be the most successful in capturing him, but he did not. Col. BAKER, however, was Secretary STANTON's intimate friend, and as Secretary STANTON was head of the War Department, and as an object was to be gained, he had little difficulty in procuring an order to have DOHERTY and his men sent to some distant post, and kept out of the way at least until the conspiracy trials are over, and all evidence confirming DOHERTY as the successful captor excluded, so that BAKER might claim the $80,000. By more accident the General Commanding became acquainted with the facts, and granted DOHERTY leave absence to come to Washington and give his evidence. This villainous plot on the part of STANTON and BAKER, is only a part of the general policy of the high officials at Washington. Putting down the rebellion was only another name for robbing the people. BUTLER, STANTON, BANKS, and thousands of others have amassed immense fortunes by swindling and robbery, under one pretext or another, but the last is the most barefaced and most impudent of all.” ”