Skip to main content

The Christian Scientist was not able to cure my stomach-ache and my
cold; but the horse-doctor did it. This convinces me that Christian
Science claims too much. In my opinion it ought to let diseases alone
and confine itself to surgery. There it would have everything its own
way.

The horse-doctor charged me thirty kreutzers, and I paid him; in fact,
I doubled it and gave him a shilling. Mrs. Fuller brought in an itemized
bill for a crate of broken bones mended in two hundred and thirty-four
places--one dollar per fracture.

"Nothing exists but Mind?" I asked.

"Nothing," she answered. "All else is substanceless, all else is
imaginary."

So I paid her with an imaginary check.  Now she is suing me for substantial dollars. Seems inconsistent.

Mark Twain, Christian Science

    In Christian Science, Mark Twain explained all folk are partially insane. Except Presbyterians and Mugwumps.  It’s science.  Presbyterians are a well-established Christian religious sect, of which Mr. Twain was a member. But what, and who, were the Mugwumps?

     A polite Algonquin Indian of 1650 likely would recognize “mugwump” as the way a white savage mispronounces “mugumquomp,” Algonquin for chief or war leader. The English savages have terrible accents; the Irish really mangle it with “mucky muck.” Makes sense with enough beer. Linguists say nouns express a group of concepts.  They often take on new meanings. Mugwump got some new ones in 1884.

        The original Republican Party coalesced on agreement to abolish slavery. After the Civil War mostly resolved that issue by 1865, several 1870’s financial scandals involving elected Republicans evinced the party’s unofficial motto changing from “Free the slaves” to “Rich people vote Republican.”  The early 1876 presidential campaign saw Senator Blaine of Maine as the Republican favorite; however, rumors spread that Union Pacific Railroad bribed Blaine to obtain land grants.  Blaine denied the charges; Democrats demanded a Congressional investigation and got one.  

        Testimony initially favored Blaine's denials. But then James Mulligan, a clerk formerly employed by Blaine’s brother in law, testified.  Mulligan claimed Blaine received $115,000 (over a million today) to procure land by grant for Union Pacific. Blaine likely was in financial trouble; Union Pacific purportedly paid near face value for Blaine's actually worthless bonds. Still, whatever the state of Blaine's finances, that land was a public asset, stolen fair and square from the polite Alquonquin’s distant cousins. Mulligan claimed he had arranged the transaction as Blaine directed and possessed letters which proved Blaine corrupt ending "Kindly burn this letter."  

       The investigating committee recessed for the day. Blaine met with privately Mulligan that night, left with the letters, then refused to turn them over to the committee.  Who knows what they said? Perhaps the ending salutation was innocuous.  After all, paper makes good kindling. Perhaps the letters read “Kindly burn this letter for I abhor littering.”  Or maybe not. Whatever the letters read, Blaine’s political career survived the scandal.   Overproud golfers rejoiced. Today, a “mulligan” is when an opponent agrees not to count a bad golf shot.  

       Eight years later, in 1884, the Republicans nominated Blaine as their Presidential candidate. Some Republicans remembered events of 1876 and declined Mr. Blaine a mulligan. They were sufficiently disgusted to vote for the realistic alternative: the Democratic Presidential candidate Grover Cleveland of New York.  

       Cleveland lead a coalition of pro-business Democrats who supported free trade and classical liberalism while opposing imperialism, inflation, and government subsidy of business, farmers or veterans. Cleveland crusaded for honest politicians and for fiscally conservative government policies, which maddened Cornucopians and patronage beneficiaries; Cleveland himself won praise for his self-reliance, integrity, and efforts opposing corrupt politicians.  Overcoming his own scandal of an out of wedlock child, Cleveland is the only man elected President in two non-consecutive terms. He won the popular vote all three times he ran.

       The 1884 election was a close one.  There were 38 states at the time; nearly 10 million people voted.  Cleveland won the popular vote by only a 50,000 margin, 4.9 million to 4.85 million.  Cleveland won 20 states with 219 electorial votes; Blaine won 18 states with 182 electorial votes.  New York and its 36 electors decided.  Cleveland won New York by only 1,047 votes out of 1,171,312 cast. After Cleveland's scandal surfaced, he'd been mocked by chants of "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?"  Once Cleveland won, his supporters rejoined: ""Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha!"  

       Blaine did not win his party’s nomination easily.  Many threatened to leave the party were Blaine nominated.  And they did. 60,000 erstwhile Republicans voted for Cleveland.  Had these voters stayed party loyal, Blaine wins New York by over a 5% margin and wins the Presidency. Republican loyalists made vigorous attempts to sway them. Some efforts backfired.  In the election run up, Charles Anderson Dana, New York Sun’s editor, named the bolters Mugwumps.  Dana wrote they were fence sitters: their mug sat on one side of the fence and their wump on the other: Mugwumps.  

       Ah, the independents.  Them who won’t vote blood, party, or piety. Almost everyone hates them.  Today, that son of a communist Rafael Ted Cruz calls the tepid modern Republican version “squishes.” Back in 1884, angry Republicans, including Mr. Dana, went beyond the derisive Mugwump.  The bolters were called man milliners, hermaphrodites, turncoats, amateurs, delusional public moralists.  By claiming themselves above partisan interests, Mugwumps were seen as sanctimoniously arrogant.  A totally unreasonable charge. As Mark Twain wrote in Christian Science, the Mugwumps were sane and everyone else crazy.

       Who were the Mugwumps? Mark Twain of course. Other once famous Mugwumps included Henry Ward Beecher, a Minister famous as Abolitionist, Suffragist, champion of Science (and insufferable womanizer); Charles Francis Adams, Jr., president of the Union Pacific Railroad (the same company which allegedly bribed Blaine!); Samuel Clemens, counted twice because his humor is really excellent; Charles William Eliot, President of Harvard University;  E.L.Godkin, editor of The Nation; Carl Schurz,  Missouri Senator, Secretary of the Interior and Saturday Evening Post editor; Moorfield Storey, blueblood lawyer and later NAACP president; Professor William G. Sumner of Yale University; Horace White, editor of the Chicago Tribune; and, perhaps the most influential of all, then young Bostonian Louis Brandeis, Esquire, later Supreme Court Justice and Zionist.  (Bill O’Reilly, who claims he is an independent, is definitely not a Mugwump. Apply the duck test, Bill.)

       Aside from Twain, the other men, quite influential in their day, are mostly forgotten. Brandeis had perhaps the most lasting effect on human affairs.  His nuanced approach to promulgating rules which balance competing interests has proven durable.   Massachusetts insurance companies using business models which Brandeis designed over a hundred years ago are still financially sound today; his judicial opinions remain topical in prestigious law schools and for good reason.   And he worked hard to create a Jewish state: Israel.  A secular Jew, Brandeis thought Palestine had enough land and resources for a Jewish state. Brandeis created Zionist organizations.  He raised funds. He donated his time, money and effort to create a Jewish Homeland; his letters make clear he thought Arab and Jew would co-exist peaceably in it.  Brandeis would be simply aghast, I am sure, at where far more partisan Zionists are taking the country he helped create.

       While Brandeis likely had the most influence, Mark Twain had the best sense of humor. In his excoriating Christian Science, Twain mentions Mugwumps when writing about bias, religious beliefs, and practical sense.  It's simple. Everyone is crazy. Except for those who agree with Twain.

    “That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful
and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any
question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious
matters.

    “When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the
Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am
spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because
you never can prove anything to a lunatic--for that is a part of his
insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane,
for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his.

    “All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of
opinion our adversaries are insane.

    “When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad. To mention only a few: The Atheist, The Theosophists, The Infidel, The Swedenborgians, The Agnostic, The Shakers, The Baptist, The Millerites, The Methodist, The Mormons, The Christian Scientist, The Laurence Oliphant Harrisites, The
Catholic, and the 115 Christian sects ( the Presbyterian excepted), The Grand Lama's people, The Monarchists, The Imperialists, The 72 Mohammedan sects, The Democrats, The Republicans (but not the Mugwumps!), The Buddhist, The Blavatsky-Buddhist, The Mind-Curists, The Faith-Curists, The Nationalist, The Mental Scientists, The Confucian,
The Spiritualist, The Allopaths, The 2000 East Indian sects, The Homeopaths, The Electropaths, The Peculiar People, The--

    “But there's no end to the list; there are millions of them! And all insane; each in his own way; insane as to his pet fad or opinion, but otherwise sane and rational. This should move us to be charitable towards one another's lunacies.”  
Mark Twain, Christian Science

     No need to be charitable to Mugwumps, who think they lack lunacy. In his autobiography, Mark Twain explained the ideals of this maligned coterie, in words sanctimonious or even slightly arrogant:
“I was a mugwump. We, the mugwumps, a little company made up of the unenslaved of both parties, the very best men to be found in the two great parties--that was our idea of it--voted sixty thousand strong for Mr. Cleveland in New York and elected him. Our principles were high, and very definite. We were not a party; we had no candidates; we had no axes to grind. Our vote laid upon the man we cast it for no obligation of any kind. By our rule we could not ask for office; we could not accept office. When voting, it was our duty to vote for the best man, regardless of his party name. We had no other creed. Vote for the best man--that was creed enough.”   Mark Twain's Autobiography (North American Review, Dec. 21, 1906)
Sources:  Melvin Urofsky, Brandeis A Life; Mark Twain, Christian Science (http://www.gutenberg.org/...)  and The Autobiography of Mark Twain; Wikipedia pages for Mugwump, Mark Twain, 1884 Election; James Blaine; Grover Cleveland; Henry Ward Beecher, and citations therein.

Originally posted to MugWumpBlues on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:50 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Shamrock American Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site