Thursday, February 01, 2007

Foundering Fathers

If you ask me, the Woeful and Lamentable aspect of current political discourse is not that it is so uncivil, but that it is not nearly hysterical enough.

I'm reading a little bit about the debates between the Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans and the Hamiltonian Federalists following the French Revolution. The DR's supported France and hated and feared Great Britain, whereas the Federalists were all for trade with Britain and were down on France.

When John Jay concluded a trade treaty with Britain in 1794, an editor wrote "John Jay, ah! the arch traitor--seize him, drown him, burn him, flay him alive." Graffiti on a Federalist's house read, "Damn John Jay! Damn everyone who won't damn John Jay!! Damn everyone that won't put lights in his windows and sit up all night damning John Jay!!!"

In return, the Federalists called the Democratic Republicans "a despicable mobocracy," "Gallic jackals," "frog-eating, man-eating, blood drinking cannibals" who wanted churches to burn and guillotines to appear in the public square. Now that's crossfire.

"Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" has a certain lyric and whimsical lilt, to be sure, but lacks some of the gusto and repetitive rhythmic staccato of "frog-eating, man-eating, blood-drinking cannibals." Heritage, not hate!

Quotations from Walter McDougall's "Promised Land, Crusader State"