Earlier this week, on the occasion of Election Day, we reminded readers of how nasty past campaigns could be. The Connecticut Courant, for instance, declared back in the fall of 1800 that should Thomas Jefferson be elected president, the world as we know it would descend into violent chaos, that Jefferson’s sympathy for France’s Jacobite revolutionaries would translate into a new Reign of Terror here in America.
How, then, did this rhetoric meet with defeat in the Electoral College?* See the November 10, 1800, edition of that same Connecticut Courant:
It must be obvious to ever person, who has been accustomed to watching the arts of Jacobinism in this State, that their tricks were continued with more skill, and executed with more success, this fall, than ever before. This must be accounted for, by the circumstance, that they undoubtedly had help from abroad. The Democrats in this State are not the wisest of men. They are better calculated to follow, than to lead, in the arts of Revolutionizing.
The writer goes on to explain that hordes of foreigners had descended upon these United States in order to force its citizens to vote for Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans. Voting tickets were the order of the day, and “in many towns, it is said, that the tickets were all in the hand writing of one or two persons.”
This mode of having tickets ready written, and distributed, is the practice at all elections in New-York. The people are furnished with their votes, instructed by the Demagogues how to vote, and then led, or driven up to the polls like sheep to their fold.
Perhaps the times then were not so different from now. As Jon Stewart explained to Hologram George Washington the other night: “It’s been a really ugly election this year, mostly negative campaigning, half the country hates the other half of the country.”
“Ahhhhh,” Hologram George replies, “I always feared this country would have a civil war …”
That sounded silly until I read this response to the current election by the conservative commentator Mark Levin. “We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited from every single future generation in this country,” he told his radio listeners. “We will not accept social engineering by politicians and bureaucrats who treat us like lab rats, rather than self-sufficient human beings. There are those in this country who choose tyranny over liberty.”
The ideologies of Federalists and folks like Levin are pretty much opposite, but the sentiment—that the other guy’s a sheep and his victory is illegitimate—is all-American.
* Actually, it’s Jacobite propaganda to say that Jefferson won in the Electoral College. He tied with his fellow Democratic-Republican Alexander Hamilton, and the House of Representatives was forced to decide the election. Either way, though, the Federalists lost.
To see a full-page image of the November 10th Courant, click on the link [pdf].
IMAGES: La liberté guidant le peuple by Eugène Delacroix, 1830; nameplate of Connecticut Courant, November 10, 1800