Political name calling and rum in 1831

Originally posted 15 May 2012

The American Presidential election of 1831 was a flowering of dirty politics, featuring savage satire by both sides. The Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison, was branded the “log cabin and hard cider” candidate by his opponents, suggesting that he was an old man who had nothing better to do than sit at home and drink the alcohol most associated with country hicks. The strategy backfired when Harrison embraced the accusation, realizing that it reflected the homespun image he sought to project. Since their first strategy hadn’t worked, supporters of rival Martin Van Buren came up with a surprising strategy, namely to claim claim that Harrison actually preferred rum. Harrison, whose other nickname was Tippecanoe, was on the ballot with James Tyler, and both are mentioned in this little ditty:

Rockabye, baby, Daddy’s a Whig
When he comes home, hard cider he’ll swig
When he has swug
He’ll fall in a stu
And down will come Tyler and Tippecanoe.
Rockabye, baby, when you awake
You will discover Tip is a fake.
Far from the battle, war cry and drum
He sits in his cabin a’drinking bad rum.

The new campaign against Harrison was another failure, and Van Buren lost the subsequent election. Harrison did not enjoy his triumph for long, as he died of pneumonia only a month after taking office.