Wednesday, October 24, 2012


7 - Vote for Goat

  In 1860 the United States teetered on the precipice of civil war. The states were sharpening their long knives in preparation for the inevitably violent dissolution of the country. The only hope for peace seemed to lie in the approaching presidential election in the form of Democratic nominee Senator Stephen Douglas, the rhetorical colossus in the body of a dwarf. Douglas championed the philosophy of “popular sovereignty” -- that each state and territory should have the right to decide the fate of slavery within its own borders. 
  Enter H. Grubbly Arrears. Born in Hillfield in 1818, Arrears began working at Linus Braggart’s Crippled Bear Farms at the age of nine. By seventeen he had saved his money -- and allegedly pilfered more from the increasingly prone-to-drink Braggart -- and used it to purchase his own small plot of farm land. By the age of twenty-one he had successfully ostracized Braggart’s children and convinced their now-alcoholically catatonic father to will his farm to the only young man with the old buzzard’s best interests at heart. Coincidentally, Braggart was dead within the year. Like Hugh Giggley before, Arrears began investing in extra-agrarian enterprises and gradually built an imposing fortune. Over time he gained a controlling interest in two manufacturers through means too byzantine and potentially homicidal to detail here: Broomward Clothiers in Newark and Cawley Canneries in the nearby metropolis-in-the-making Madsen. Arrears was a steely-eyed barrel of a man who, as Hillfieldologist Mark Krasker has awkwardly written, “sought to crush his enemies with his icy stare like a snail under hoof.” 
  By 1860 Arrears had vertically integrated his farming and canning, but Broomward Clothiers was by far his most profitable and highest-earning business. Broomward sold staggering volumes of its wares to the Southern plantation lords who clothed their slaves in cheap, practical scraps of cloth. Arrears was all too aware of the hit  his income would take with the outbreak of civil war -- no Southern slave owner was going to outfit his slaves with Yankee apparel! -- and resolved that the diminutive fire-breather Douglas must become President, not the popular Republican lawyer from Bumfuck, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.
  Arrears was not the only industrialist indirectly profiting from slavery who conspired to undermine Lincoln. He was, however, the only one who, for whatever reason, did not resort to outright bribery. He could not have had an ethical objection to the practice -- it was, after all, instrumental, in his own rise to power -- and he may simply have deemed it more expensive than necessary. Instead, he poured his money into assassinating Lincoln’s character. His modus operandi was to paint Lincoln as a harbinger of doom, as the instrument of the nation’s destruction. Arrears commissioned numerous political cartoons and attack ads that literally painted Lincoln as the Antichrist stabbing at the American flag or the Mason-Dixon line with a pitchfork, replete with hooves and goat’s horns. Arrears then began verbally attacking Lincoln as, “a goat,” simultaneously scapegoating him for the impending civil strife and implying a lecherous and villainous personality masquerading behind the Honest Abe-persona. 
  New Jersey’s Republicans, however, fought back, accusing the state’s manufacturing interests of fear-mongering, corrupting the electoral process, and making fun of them. In July of 1860 several dozen Republicans (or, at least, several dozen roughnecks hired by them) gathered outside the Broomward factory in Newark and confronted H. Grubbly Arrears as he emerged from the factory. During the confrontation Arrears is reported to have barked, “Do you want an animal for President? He looks like a goat!” This off-the-cuff insult is believed to have inspired Arrears’ following salvo: a series of ads featuring a realistic portrait of the Republican candidate juxtaposed against a picture of a goat, highlighting Lincoln’s caprine resemblance. The state’s Republicans, not to be outdone, embraced the accusation and turned it on its ear, adopting the call “Vote for Goat,” and sporting hand-held signs and sandwich boards trumpeting the absurd battle cry. It is unclear if this tactic originated within Lincoln’s campaign, the only circumstantial evidence supporting the claim being Lincoln’s sardonic goat’s bleat in answer to a question regarding Arrears’ attack ads. 
  Ultimately H. Grubbly Arrears won the battle for the New Jersey electorate but lost the war. The state was one of only two to vote for Douglas, and Lincoln’s subsequent election led to the secession of the Southern states. Arrears doubled down on the election of 1864, backing General George McClellan as the Democratic candidate. McClellan, however, openly repudiated the party’s official platform of negotiating a peaceful settlement with the Confederacy. His campaign never gained traction, and Arrears’ attacks were now seen for the desperate and transparent sops that they were, specifically his insinuation that Lincoln enjoyed the remote woods of Illinois because he liked having sex with trees. McClellan was trounced and Arrears never again enjoyed such material wealth or political influence. 

The Jughandle From Hell