What's the 'greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history’?

Historians in the News
tags: Trump, witch hunt



Fanciful representation of the Salem witch trials, lithograph from 1892


Political witch hunts in the U.S. date back to the early days of the republic, the experts said.

“Jacksonians attacked [President] John Quincy Adams for buying a billiard table, saying that he was using the people's money to purchase a gambling device,” Mark Cheathem, a professor of history at Cumberland University, wrote in an email.

As one of Adams’ critics charged in 1826: "When we find the fathers and matrons of our country engaged in persuading young men from practices which lead to destruction, we greatly fear that the too frequent answer will be, 'Why, the President plays billiards!’"

Less than two decades later, “Whigs attacked [President] Martin Van Buren for acting like a dandy, spending an exorbitant amount of money to refurbish the White House, and landscaping the White House grounds in the shape of an Amazon's bosom,” Cheathem said.

That’s not a joke. Rep. Charles Ogle of Pennsylvania alleged in a pamphlet that Van Buren’s “clever sized hills” appeared “designed to resemble and assume the form of AN AMAZON BOSOM, with a miniature knoll or hillock at its apex, to denote the nipple.”




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