jackal wrote:Durandal_1707 wrote:I'd write up a punchy little narrative about it sensationalizing all the crazy bits, but I'm really tired and I need to get up in the morning, so sadly I haven't got time right now. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow if I end up having some free time.
Please do! I finding interestingly-written historical anecdotes and analyses endlessly fascinating. If my history books in school were written like some of the Quora answers I’ve enjoyed reading, I probably would have cared about history a little more...
Sorry, the last few days have been crazy. But I'm finally free for a bit, and a promise is a promise! Disclaimer: I'm not actually a historian or anything, just a geek who loves reading about stuff, especially when I'm supposed to be doing something else. If there are any actual historians in the crowd, feel free to correct anything I screw up Of course, I also reserve the right to take some mild artistic license for Rule of Funny, and you'll just have to deal with that. Once things get started, pull out a Bingo card populated with weird things that have happened in 21st century politics, and see how long it takes for you to get a Bingo. Do not take a shot each time; I must stress the importance of drinking responsibly, and besides, Rutherford B. Hayes would never approve.
So anyway, our story starts with a mild-mannered lawyer, one-term Illinois Representative, and recent President-Elect named Abe Lincoln, who received a letter from a little girl suggesting that he'd look good in a beard. Upon taking that advice, mild-mannered Abe suddenly metamorphosed into...
*** THE ABRAHAM MUTHAF-ING LINCOLN ==(:-)= ***
(I had some US flags in here, but this board apparently doesn't properly support Unicode, alas)
...thus inaugurating the Big-Beard Era of the American presidency. Well, there was an exception. Sigh, I guess we can derail a bit to talk about him. Okay. So Lincoln is known as the first Republican president, but for his second term, he actually ran on the ticket of the National Union Party, a coalition of Republicans and pro-Union Democrats, to win the support of people who'd refuse to vote Republican otherwise. And to that end, Lincoln chose a Democrat, Andrew Johnson, as his running mate in the 1864 election. Johnson was, admittedly, a flaming asshole, but he was a guy from North Carolina, one of the rebelling states, who nonetheless remained loyal to the Union, and thus choosing him sent a strong message of national unity. And after all, the VP doesn't really do anything anyway, so what could go wrong?
(Ron Howard: "Something went wrong.")
So we're stuck with Andrew Johnson for almost all of what should have been Lincoln's second term. Johnson may have been pro-Union, but he was still a Southerner, and as such he expended a great deal of energy trying to undermine the North's attempts to take advantage of their victory to make life suck slightly less for the recently-freed slaves. For an example of what a great guy Johnson was: when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which granted all citizens, regardless of color, equal access to basic freedoms like the ability to own property, enter into contracts, and such, Johnson vetoed it because it discriminated against whites. He also argued that it could lead to a slippery slope by which the Southern states might eventually be forced to let blacks do things like serve on juries, hold public office, or even (gasp!) vote. Congress overrode the veto, by the way, marking the first time in history that Congress and the president were pissed-off at each another enough for that to happen. But that wasn't the only first in Congressional-Presidential relations during this administration, because you already know how the rest of this goes: Congress sets a trap obvious enough to be the work of an SNES RPG villain, Johnson deliberately steps right on it just to say F-U, Congress impeaches Johnson because they hate his stupid face, Johnson survives by one vote. Anyway. Suppose you're thinking of running for president after this fiasco. Who do you want to look like?
So yeah, it's gonna be beards for a while.
Now it's 1868, and on the Republican ticket we have Ulysses S. Grant, flying high on his fame for being the general that won the Civil War. And for the Democrats we have... ohwhocareshehasnochance. Grant's not a politician, and doesn't really have any political experience, but hey, how hard can it be? Picking out cabinet and staff members will be easy; Grant has lots of friends, and they're the best people, the best people. So while Grant actually did some good things in office—including fulfilling some of Johnson's doom-and-gloom predictions with more civil rights legislation—the thing everyone's going to remember about him is the ill-fated stunt where he jumped over a shark tank in a motorcycle. Oh, and also the rampant corruption scandals plaguing his administration, particularly the Crédit Mobilier scandal, which is so convoluted that I always have to look it up. One moment. (pulls up Wikipedia)
Ahem. So, the new big thing is building a transcontinental railroad to connect the mainland US with the relatively new Southwestern states. Stealing those states from Mexico was one of the major sparks that ended up leading to the Civil War, after all, and since we've already gone through all that, probably we should at least make it not a giant pain in the ass to get over there. So the government hires the Union Pacific Railroad to build this thing, and the guys in charge of Union Pacific, one of whom is hilariously named George Francis Train, formed a company called Crédit Mobilier—named after a French bank, don't ask me why—and subcontracted the work out to them. Crédit Mobilier jacked their prices way up, Union Pacific passed those costs on to the government claiming that's what their subcontractor was asking for, Crédit Mobilier lied about how much money they made, and the guys running UP were the same guys running CM so they got filthy rich. Then, Crédit Mobilier started getting members of Congress in on the act, giving them nice big payouts as well as positions on CM's board in exchange for continuing to appropriate the funds to keep this scheme running. So basically, you can imagine how the excrement hit the fan when this got out. Grant had been planning to take a shot at becoming the first US president to win a third term, but 'twas not to be; only one guy in history would ever manage to pull that off, and it's not U. S. Grant. But with Grant out of the race, and the populace thoroughly pissed off, what would the Republican party do in 1876? Who would they run? And who will end up being the 19th president of the United States? Well stay tuned, because this is where things start getting really messed up (and I promise, this is all leading to something!). Unfortunately, I need to take a break after typing all this See you later tonight and/or tomorrow!