Monday, August 24, 2009

"The Omnibus is smashed -- wheels, axles and body"

In a recent post, I referred to the origin of the term "omnibus bill" during the Crisis of 1850. In Prologue to Conflict: The Crisis and Compromise of 1850, Holman Hamilton cites several examples illustrating how taken people were with the image of the bill as an actual "omnibus", a common carrier "for all" (dative plural!) passengers and their cargo.

Item 1: Toward the end of July 1850, Henry Clay was defending the inclusion in the bill of amendments that some argued were inconsistent. "In reply to criticism, Clay proudly said he saw no 'incongruity' in the freight or passengers 'on board our omnibus.'"

Item 2: The bill fell apart on Wednesday July 31, 1850, as various provisions were stripped away, leaving only that portion providing for the establishment of the Utah territory. "'The omnibus is overturned,' Thomas Hart Benton gloated, 'and all the passengers spilled out but one. We have but Utah left - all gone but Utah!"

Item 3: A few days later, Horace Greeley could not resist using the image. "And so the Omnibus is smashed - wheels, axles and body - nothing left but a single plank termed Utah. I even saw the gallant driver [Henry Clay] abandoning the wreck between six and seven this evening, after having done all that man could do to retrieve, or rather to avert the disaster."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails