Thursday, June 19, 2014

Voter Registration in Sodom

Surely you didn't
say that, Governor!
The Locofocos were a faction of the Democratic Party in the decades before the Civil War, sort of the Tea Party in today’s Republican Party. This was probably largely skipped over when, during high school, classes covered the period between the Constitutional Convention and the Civil War. (Compromises. I remember it treated as a period in which Henry Clay brokered a series of compromises.)

The Locofocos were in favor of the gold standard (like Tea Partiers today), but in other ways they were liberal, supporting labor unions (unlike the Tea Party). They were formed in New York, and though the Democrats were the conservative party of the day (generally speaking), some of their aims were fairly liberal.

The Whigs (the progressive party), of course, hated them. Like the Locofocos, the Whigs had the North as a stronghold. Unlike the Locofocos, the Whigs where opposed to Andrew Jackson (whom the Locofocos supported). Henry Clay ran against Jackson in the election of 1824 (that election was contested and Clay had his supporters vote for John Quincy Adams), and again in 1832.

To the Whigs, the Democrats were bad enough, but the Locofocos were even worse. On June 19, 1850, the North-Carolina Standard of Raleigh, North Carolina, ran a piece that claimed that Charles Manly, the Governor of North Carolina and Whig, had made the claim that that city of Sodom went Locofoco.
In his recent Speech before the Whig Convention, accepting the nomination for Governor, Gov. Manly said that the people of the old Locofoco Town of Sodom would have escaped the Divine vengeance in the day of their visitation, if they could have boasted seven such men as the Whigs of the central position of the State! In his printed Speech the expression is altered, and does not read “Locofoco” but “wicked” Town; but he said it, and will not deny it. More than this: We understand he read from a written Speech; and so this expression was not made in passion or in the heat of declamation, but was deliberately conceived and reduced to writing.
(A note: Where the Standard used small caps, I have used bold. The italics are theirs.)

It doesn’t sound like politics have changed that much in the last 164 years. So, Governor Manly can neither confirm nor deny that he made such statements. Just in case their readers weren’t up on the Bible story, the Standard continued:
Now the people of Sodom were the basest and most depraved people that ever lived. Sodomy, as it is termed in the Common Law, is too horrid a crime to mentioned even (as the books have it,) in the language of any Christian people; and so for their heinous and Heaven-defying wickedness, the Almighty “rained fire and brimstones” upon the people of Sodom and consumed them. If Gov. Manly meant that unfortunate expression for whit, he was certainly very hard run for the article, and he restored to a strange place to find it; but if he said it carelessly, or in earnest, then we will not characterize the expression and the gross reflection it conveys, in the terms they so richly merit.

A gentleman of Mr. Manly’s information and character must indeed be in a difficult position, when he is driven to such conduct as this. Without this expression his Speech was indifferent enough, in all conscience; but with it it is only a shade better than Brownlow’s Editorials. We regret it, but “regrets are vain for the past.” Solomon has said:

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour; *so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor."

How true, in this instance!
The issues are different, but the stories are pretty much the same. “Brownlow” was William Brownlow, the editor of the Knoxville Whig, in which he regularly abused his political opponents. I suppose the Standard would have been happy if Governor Manly either apologized for claiming that the residents of Sodom voted Locofuco, or actually managed to produce evidence that they did.
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