The Corner

Timing Is Everything

I got one of the best audience reax of my life at a talk this weekend at Mount Vernon. To give the flavor of John Marshall’s tempestuous congressional campaign (1798), I quoted from an old biography (ellipses omitted). NB–there were no secret ballots in those days, so voting was a public festivity.

“Sick men were taken in their beds to the polls; the halt, the lame, and the blnd were hunted up and every mode of conveyance was mustered into service. A barrel of whisky with the head knocked in, free for everybody, stood beneath a tree; and the majority took it straight. At times the uproar was perfectly defeaning; men were shaking their fists at each other, rolling up their sleeves, cursing and swearing.The crowd rolled to and fro like a surging wave. Never before and seldom, if ever, since, in the history of Virginia, was any election so fiercely contested.” [SUDDEN SIGNIFICANT PAUSE]

The audience laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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