Monday, April 06, 2009

The Tale of the Dog's Tail

Rep. Charles Ogle’s (Whig – PA) Gold Spoon Oration of April 14, 2009 is a real hoot. I have decided to highlight one discrete portion just because it is so odd.

Toward the end of the speech, Ogle started needling a Democratic representative from Pennsylvania, William Beatty, about what Ogle charged was the Democrats’ “political somerset [somersault] with regard to banks.” Beatty tried to get the floor to explain his position, but Ogle refused to yield his time.

Then, for reasons that are not entirely clear (to me at least), Ogle related the following:
I will just call the attention of my colleague to an ordinance passed by the Mayor and Common Council of a neighboring city, in prevention of the danger from hydrophobia; they decreed and ordained that every dog running at large through their streets should wear a muzzle.

Beatty apparently sensed that a story involving dogs, hydrophobia and muzzles was somehow aimed at him and would not be complementary. He accordingly “again endeavored to obtain the floor, and spoke with some warmth in reference to his colleague.” Unfortunately, the precise nature of Beatty’s warm remarks must remain a matter of conjecture, for “his words were lost to the Reporter.”

After noting with satisfaction that his story was having the desired effect on Beatty (“I see it takes admirably”), Ogle then resumed his story:
Well, sir, there was a certain yankee pedler [sic], who had a dog which he employed to guard his wagon; and, as he wanted his dog to have the power of biting thieves, and stood in awe of the ordinance of the Mayor, he had a muzzle made and attached it to his dog’s tail. [A laugh.] The dog was caught by the constable running about the street with the muzzle at the wrong end; the muzzle was taken off, and the owner arrested for a violation of the ordinance.

But when the yankee was brought before the magistrate, he plead that penal statutes were always to be rigidly construed, and as the law said nothing about where the muzzle was to be worn, he insisted that he had complied with the letter of the statute; and he then turned about and entered a complaint against the constable who had removed the muzzle, and had him fined $15, that being the penalty for taking off the muzzle from any dog, according to the same law. [Loud laughter.]

About the illustration:
A satirical attack on alleged excesses in the Van Buren administration and on the President's Loco Foco or radical Democratic supporters in New York. Martin Van Buren rides past New York's Tammany Hall in a luxurious British carriage. With him are editors and advisers Frances Preston Blair and Amos Kendall. The carriage is drawn by supporters, one wearing a fireman's hat marked "No.5." A crowd looks on, and two youthful "Loco Foco" match-vendors wave as the coach passes. Blair: "Well my democratic friends this is really a triumph! What will the Federal Whigs say to it." Kendall: "You told me Matty that you could make the Tammany men do do anything--I see you can!" Van Buren: "These are my loyal subjects! old Tammany never fails to do her duty on a Pinch!" Others: "This is truly royal--great as the Coronation--what a humbug is this Democracy." "This beats our reception of Hunt & Cobbett at Spittalfield." ". . . LaFayette's entry was a fool to this." An elderly man in the crowd: "I must have a seat in Congress again to speak of this Triumph." The coach's driver: "This is True Democracy--a triumph of principle." Weitenkampf dates the print 1838, but several factors argue against this. The matter of Van Buren's purportedly regal life-style and preference for foreign goods figured large in the Whig campaign of 1840. (It was given prominence by Pennsylvania Representative Charles Ogle's lengthy philippic on the subject in Congress during April of that year.) In addition, editors Blair and Kendall emerged as Van Buren's most powerful publicists during the 1840 race.


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