Sunday, July 1, 2012

Things Haven't Changed!

Those agonizing over the current state of politics in our country might take comfort (or despair) in A History of New York, which Washington Irving published under the pen name of Diedrich Knickerbocker in 1809. He describes a party system in which membership is determined by whether one smokes a short pipe or a long one. He discusses the nature of partisanship as follows:
Whatever was proposed by Short Pipe was opposed by the whole tribe of Long Pipes, who, like true partisans, deemed it their first duty to effect the downfall of their rivals, their second, to elevate themselves, and their third, to consult the public good; though many left the consideration out of question altogether.
Presumably Irving's own reading experiences included Jonathan Swift. After all in Gulliver's Travels, party membership in Lilliput was determined by whether one broke an egg at the big end or the little one; and the idea of public representation by elected officials was not much different from that of Irving's description!

No comments: