Crimes of Our Forefathers

Federal Judge and Drunken Potty Mouth John Pickering with (I assume) his wife. I know he looks like Abraham Lincoln. Everyone looked like Abraham Lincoln back then.

It seems like every day there’s some new political scandal.  Some guy mismanaged funds.  Another guy waggled his willy at an intern.  It’s tempting to think that the world is just going downhill and politicians are getting worse all the time.

Not true…

Here’s a few tidbits of political intrigue and scandal from long before any of us were around…

- In 1777, Silas Deane was the United States’ first foreign diplomat.  While ambassador to France, and trying to get the US some financial aid (I guess he couldn’t say, “Look, we’re going to bail your asses out PLENTY of times…) he was accused of mismanagement of funds and treason.  He had intended to fight the charges but died before doing so.  Eventually the charges were reversed or dropped.  Because back then they at least had the brains to stop a trial if the dude was dead already.

- In 1797 Senator William Blout of Tennessee was fired from his Senate gig for trying to help the British take over West Florida.  Hundreds of years later, Florida proved how much they dislike America by re-electing George W Bush.

- Lest you think there’s nothing as ridiculous as we have now… In 1798, Matthew Lyon, a Congressman from Kentucky was nearly censured for spitting on fellow Congressman Ralph Griswold (Look kids!  Left Bank!) of Connecticut.  The censure didn’t hold, but Mr. Lyon was found guilty of violating the Alien and Sedition Acts (which prevented greasy aliens from nesting in the stomach of politicians) and spent 4 months in jail.  During his stint in the slammer, he was re-elected.  Tell me you wouldn’t find that on the front of Yahoo news…

- In 1804, Federal Judge John Pickering was impeached for public drunkeness and use of profanity while on the bench.  It certainly would have made CSpan a hell of a lot more fun to watch.  This is probably Donald Thompson’s childhood hero.

- In 1811, General James Wilkinson conspired with Spain to get Kentucky to secede from the Union so they’d be allowed shipping on the Mississippi.  Of course they were hundreds of miles from the river, but hey… Little obstacles.  At least you’d finally be able to get some decent Basque cuisine in Kentucky.

- In 1831, Congressman Robert Potter of North Carolina had to resign from his position after castrating two men he thought were sleeping with his wife.  He was later expelled from the state’s Legislature (Yep, he was able to get another government gig…) for cheating at cards and pulling a gun on someone during a game.  I think he could be a candidate for OG of OG’s.

- In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina rushed the Senate floor and beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane until he was bleeding an unconscious, while two other people held the Senate off at gun point.  The can was only used because there were no folding chairs available.  Oh, if there were only pay-per-view back then…

There’s plenty more, but you get the idea.  Politicians have always been idiots.  Why?  Because people are idiots, and they are, at least to the untrained eye, people.

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