Wednesday, July 18

Make Your Point, But Don't Kill Yourself Doing It

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By Art Cashin

On this day in 1871, a celebrated former U.S. Congressman ended his life.  Now, I know how sensitive you are.  How much you care for America's civil servants - particularly America's Congressmen.  So, I know that you are sore in your heart to hear that a person who has dedicated himself to political life should find his existence shortened.  (A few of you Neanderthals may be wondering - why should I wonder how one of those tax sucking junketeers died - thank God ye are a small callous minority.)

Anyway, this guy was a bit more celebrated than your average Congressman who kills himself.  This guy, Clement Laird Vallandigham, was a former Congressman from Ohio (okay - no jokes).  He had led an anti-war coalition of Northern Congressmen called "the Copperheads".  They almost kept the North out of the Civil War.  He was so obsessed by his anti-war ideals that even after the war began he allowed himself to be elected "Commander - Knights of the Golden Circle", a very pro-Confederate group. That got him court-martialed as a public servant and banished to the Confederacy. That trial and banishment made him the inspiration of the classic novel "The Man Without a Country." 

But, as the war wound down, Vallandigham made his way back to Ohio.  Here, he began again to assert his brilliance for the law and those things legal.  And, by this date in 1871, he was a much sought-after defense attorney. On this day, he was preparing the defense of Thomas McGehan accused of murder. 

Vallandigham planned to demonstrate that  the victim had accidently shot himself while pulling his own gun.  Being thorough he was rehearsing, but failed to note that an aide had brought a backup gun.  Vallandigham picked up the wrong gun and demonstrated how the trigger might have been pulled.  The gun went off.  The courtroom genius shouted - "My God, I've shot myself!!"  Within hours he was dead. 

To celebrate stop by the Copperhead Inn for a couple of shooters.  But be careful what you pick up.  Mistakes can be fatal even to non-Congressmen. 

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

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