Political Mudslinging, is it New?
After watching the Presidential debate on Tuesday it got me thinking about if politics were always this dirty, or if these vicious attacks were a product of the 24-hour news cycle or social media. It turns out that while the modern day attacks may be better preserved they did in fact happen, and were much harsher.
In the election of 1796 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, political rivals, the mudslinging was especially crude. Adams’ party claimed that Jefferson was a “howling atheist.” Such a damning accusation in extremely religious times could be considered political death, but Jefferson’s people returned fire with a charge that John Adams, if elected president, would “rip up the constitution” and make himself king, appointing his sons as princes. His team went as far as to say that one of Adams’ sons was going to marry the daughter of King George III. It is hard to tell how the American people, who had only finished fighting the British about twenty years earlier, reacted to such hearsay, but Adams wound up winning the election.
These two heated rivals didn’t stay quiet long because in the very next election in 1800 the political vitriol continued. Jefferson’s people claimed Adams had sent a ship to transport two of his mistresses from Europe, while Adams’ group claimed that Jefferson was, “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” They also claimed that Jefferson fathered children with one of slaves, which as time has gone by appears to likely be the case.
After those two were done sparring a famous tiff between another Adams, John Quincy, and Andrew Jackson got particularly ugly. In the 1828 race for the Presidency John Quincy Adams attacked every aspect of Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson, nothing was off the table. Adams’ backers attacked through newspaper columns, leaflets, and handbills degrading Jackson’s mother, who they claimed was a prostitute, his father, who they claimed was a mulatto, Jackson himself, who they said was a murderer, and even his wife, who they said was a bigamist. The attacks were so harsh they are said to have caused a heart attack killing Jackson’s wife before his inauguration.
Some other notable attacks were against Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and 64, where his “Honest Abe” persona was mimicked and called “Honest Ape” and he would be characterized as a buffoon, thief, tyrant, or a butcher. Rutherford B. Hayes preferred to attack his opponent, Samuel Tildon, by calling him a syphilitic drunk in 1876. Tildon retorted by saying Hayes shot his own mother, and stole money from dead civil war soldiers.
While this isn’t every example these do shed some light onto the political atmosphere that was created in America even from the early stages of the republic. I would even go as far as to say that it has become tamer. No longer are wives, or family members attacked, and personal life matters, for the most part, are left out. The blatant lying that seems to have taken place has now been replaced with “facts” that each side prepares to support their own candidate. So while the mudslinging doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, we can rest easy knowing that at least it has been going on since this all started.Google+