Barbarian at the Gates: The 1840 Election is Starting to Rhyme with 2020

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    • #344575
      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 17,111

      1840. All most Americans are taught about that election is that William Henry Harrison used the first campaign jingle, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too,” and won. The implication is he won because of the jingle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      The events that doomed Martin Van Buren to defeat started even before he, the loyal ally of the incredibly popular Andrew Jackson, won his own election in 1836. Jackson, hero of Donald Trump, did a couple of things that guaranteed political doom for his successor. First, he refused the renew the charter of the Bank of the United States, the central bank established by Alexander Hamilton which had financed early American industry. Second, he passed a law requiring all paper loans to be paid back in hard currency, specifically coin, gold or silver.

      The result was financial catastrophe. There had been rampant speculation on land with paper IOU’s, and there wasn’t enough hard currency around to pay all those IOU’s. The land bubble burst. The state banks Jackson had hoped to replace the Bank of the US with failed for reasons I won’t bother to go into, and money just dried up. The economy was collapsing in 1837, just a few weeks after Van Buren was inaugurated, and then the wheat harvest failed.

      In short, the American economy almost completely collapsed in a matter of a couple of years or so, and it only took that long because communications were slower then. 50,000 factory workers in New York City alone lost their jobs. 90% of the factories on the East Coast closed. Farmers in the Northeast lost their land and migrated to the Midwest. Many farmers and quite a few small to middling cotton plantation owners in the South lost everything, too, and migrated west.

      They often carved the initials GTT into their front doors as a message to their creditors: Gone To Texas. The new Republic of Texas was more than happy to give them land, and encouraged Southerners to bring their slaves and open up cotton plantations in East Texas. Thousands did.

      Van Buren was helpless. This had never happened before, and he really didn’t know WTF to do. He kept his word to the Jacksonian Democrats and refused to bring back the Bank of the United States, and the Whigs, always backers of the bank, never shut up about it. It didn’t help matters that while most Americans were broke and many were going hungry, Van Buren was a wealthy man.

      He had earned his money the old-fashioned way. Like Trump, he inherited it. Unlike Trump, he was old money; descended from Dutch aristocrats when New York was New Amsterdam. When he spent $3000 of his own money to build a landscaped garden on the White House grounds, he was pilloried for being out of touch.

      Van Buren blundered on, and things just got worse. In 1840, the Whigs nominated 67 year old William Henry Harrison, who had conquered Ohio for the expanding American Republic over a quarter century earlier. He’d been Governor of Ohio, and, like Andrew Jackson before him, was a war hero. One of his few campaign planks was to re-establish the Bank of the United States, but even that really didn’t matter.

      Van Buren was blamed for the Panic of 1837 and continuing crushing depression, and Harrison won in a huge electoral landslide.

      Here we are in 2020, rapidly sliding into an economic depression every bit as disruptive as the Panic of 1837, meaning it’s worse than the Crash of 1929. What’s more, unlike the 1830s and 40s, Americans can’t just up and move and settle in new lands, displacing the native inhabitants by sheer weight of numbers and superior firepower. Most are stuck, and will, like their non-migrating counterparts back in 1840, turn on those whom they justly blame for upending their lives–those in power. That means Trump, but if the Democrats get into power and then fail to turn things around, which I think is likely, it will be they who reap the whirlwind before 2024. Unlike the 1840s, the 2020s have no frontier as an outlet for the—I’ll use English understatement and just say discontented.

      Joe Biden himself echoes 1840. William Henry Harrison was the oldest President ever elected at the time. If Biden wins, he will surpass both Reagan and Harrison as the oldest man elected President. Harrison, as you know, died within six months of assuming office. I’m not saying Biden’s going to die, but he might, or might resign because his dementia or Alzheimer’s or whatever forces his Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. It’s distinctly possible.

      2020 may see an incumbent go down to defeat in much the same manner Martin Van Buren did, but after that, the echoes will become discordant. Another central bank at the time, the Bank of England, did step in with some badly needed loans, and eventually revenue from newly conquered Mexican lands stabilized the economy and the California Gold Rush of 1849 made it boom. There are no such remedies waiting to save American capitalism this time.

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I'll show you a crook.--Harry Truman

    • #344583
      HassleCat
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      • Total Posts: 4,411

      We could legalize cannabis nationwide and tax it. Some money there.

    • #344617
      ArtfromArk
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,050

      There were a few more slogans associated with the campaign. One was “Keep the ball rolling”, referring to a stunt by Harrison supporters to roll a giant ball from town to town. The gimmick was revived during the campaign of Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin Harrison, in 1888.

       

      Another one was “Van, Van, he’s a used up man!”

       

      Harrison’s campaign became known as the “log cabin and hard cider campaign”, and in some places, log-cabin-shaped bottles filled with hard cider were handed out to potential voters. The cider was distilled by the E.C.Booz Company. And it doesn’t take a Paul Harvey to figure out the rest of that story!

      “There’s a new spirit abroad in the land. The old days of ‘grab and greed’ are on their way out. We’re beginning to think of what we owe the other fellow, not just what we’re compelled to give him. The time’s coming… when we shan’t be able to fill our bellies in comfort while others go hungry, sleep in warm beds while others shiver in the cold.... And God willing, we’ll live to see that day…” Basil Rathbone,"Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" (Universal 1943)

    • #344663
      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 17,111

      It’s also true that Harrison, who really was the first American President born in a log cabin, played up his humble beginnings, but the Whigs were careful to never say that he was in fact wealthier than Van Buren by 1840.

      His early death also foiled the Whig plan to bring back the Bank of the United States, for John Tyler vetoed the bill and the Whigs were unable to override it. In response, the Whigs kicked him out of the party, the Democrats didn’t trust him enough to nominate him themselves, and we got James K. Polk in 1844.

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I'll show you a crook.--Harry Truman

    • #344796
      ArtfromArk
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,050

      so-called “Hard Times Tokens” the size of the then-penny were issued. Some supported Jackson-Van Buren, others did not. Here’s one that portrayed Van Buren as a turtle, unable to grasp what was happening out in the real world. Sound familiar? LOL!

      “There’s a new spirit abroad in the land. The old days of ‘grab and greed’ are on their way out. We’re beginning to think of what we owe the other fellow, not just what we’re compelled to give him. The time’s coming… when we shan’t be able to fill our bellies in comfort while others go hungry, sleep in warm beds while others shiver in the cold.... And God willing, we’ll live to see that day…” Basil Rathbone,"Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" (Universal 1943)

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