There is much talk today among commentators about how the tone of our political discourse has never been less civilized. These folks should crack a history book and get some perspective.
Today's verbal broadsides sound like polite debate society language compared to the bomb throwing of the nineteenth century.
It may surprise you to learn that in the political pantheon of Texas, nobody received more abuse than Sam Houston.
All of the quotes below were said of Old Sam when he stood for president in either the 1837 or 1841 capaigne. Can you imagine any of the following being said about a presidential candidate today?
"The thief and the murderer I can guard against, but the liar I cannot. Therefore I must say that Houston is the basest of all men, as he has, by willfully lying, attempted to rob that little band of men of their well earned honors on the battlefield of San Jacinto. He has assumed to himself credit that was due to others." - Jesse Billingsley (an officer at San Jacinto)
"Gen. Houston has long and habitually acted on the Spanish proverb, that a lie that can gain belief for one hour is worth the telling." - David G. Burnett (interim President and later Vice President under Lamar)
"If it was not fear that made the General tuck his tail and run from the Colorado, from half his own number and from the Brazos, it was a total want of military capacity." - San Jacinto veteran J. W. Robinson
Fortunately for them, Houston had assumed the role of statesman and exercised more self control than he had as a member of the US House of Representatives from Tennessee in 1832.
A congressman from Ohio, John Stanbery, stood on the floor of the house and accused Houston of corruption in his role as agent to the Cherokees.
Houston confronted Stanbery on Pennsylvania Avenue and beat him savagely with a hickory cane, a gift for Old Hickory himself, Andrew Jackson. Stanbery drew a pistol, placed it against Houston's chest and pulled the trigger. The gun failed to fire.
Houston was arrested and ordered to stand trial in the House of Representatives, where Francis Scott Key handled his legal defense. Sam was found guilty, but was given only a mild reprimand.
So much for today's so-called 'mean-spiritedness'. Sticks and stone...