MARCH 2020

MARCH   2020
The Lawyers Carve Up the Golden Goose


Saturday, September 24, 2016


“'I've made a lot of candidates look foolish, usually with a lot of help from the candidates themselves.”
His name is legend, so secure that in his mid-eighties his business card carried merely his name and the definition of the phrase Political Prank: “a political activity, characterized by humor, devised to unmask, ventilate, bring to light, debunk, hold up to view, etc., the comical, ludicrous, or ridiculous, etc., incongruities, follies, abuses, and stupidities, etc., esp. of a candidate for office.” His sobriquet's - none self applied - include the Democratic harlequin, the Democrat Pixie, the merry trickster, the leprechaun, Richard Nixon's doppelganger, a Gaelic Father Christmas without beard and who gives the impression that he sends his clothes to the cleaners for rumpling, and most accurately, the self appointed Inspector Javert to Richard Nixon's Jean Valjean. It was Dick Tuck who tormented the central years of Richard Nixon's life. It was Dick Tuck who was blamed by Nixon's closest advisers, for the scandal that brought down their President. And it was Dick Tuck who always understood, that nobody pays to see the picador, except the matador.
“I think newspapers should stop publishing inaccurate polls until we do away with the secret ballot. Or run headlines: Poll Right--Election Off 4%.”
Dick Tuck spent the Second World War in the Pacific, dismantling bombs, and his post war career, planting them. In 1950, as a GI Bill student at U.C. Santa Barbara, Dick Tuck was working for Democratic Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, in her run for the U.S. Senate. According to Dick, an absent minded professor asked him “out of the blue” to act as campus “advance man” for the Republican candidate, Congressman Nixon. Tuck knew almost nothing about his soon-to-be nemesis, but instantly seeing the potential for humor, Dick accepted the job.
“I would have trouble convincing anybody that anything I've ever done is serious--except Richard Nixon.”
He rented the largest auditorium the Young Republican's budget would allow, and then invited only about 40 young Republicans. Introducing the Congressman to the empty cavern, Tuck rambled on for twenty minutes, before suggesting Nixon would now speak on the International Monetary Fund. Taking the microphone, Nixon was nonplussed. After stumbling through a short address and as soon as the last sad clap echoed through the empty auditorium, Nixon asked Tuck his name, and then told him, “Dick Tuck, you've made your last advance.” Luckily for future generations, that proved not to be true. Jokes aside, Nixon won the election.
“I don't consider the Boston Tea Party a prank. Rather, it was a staged event with an important political message.”
The two did not meet again until 1956, when Nixon was repeating as President Eisenhower's running mate. At the Republican convention, Tuck learned the San Francisco Department of Public Works sent their garbage trucks down Geneva Avenue on their way to the Junipero Serra Landfill. So Dick Tuck bought advertising space on each of those trucks. Thus, should any Republicans gaze out from their convention held in the Cow Palace, which was bordered by Geneva Avenue, they would see an endless stream of garbage trucks each carrying signs that said simply, “Dump Nixon.” It did not turn the election around, but it certainly bothered Nixon.
“The fact that your grandfather was a horse thief, that's not relevant.”
As the campaign progressed, Tuck would pose as a Republican operative, and convince bandleaders at campaign stops that Vice President Nixon's walk-on music should be his favorite song - “Mack The Knife”.  Needless to say, it was not Nixon's favorite song. Posing as a fire marshal to the local press, Tuck would low ball turnout estimates for Republican rallies. Wearing a stolen conductor's cap, Tuck signaled the engineer to pull out of whistle stop, while Nixon (above) was still speaking from the rear of the last car. And then there was his famous “Chinatown Caper”,  when in 1962  Nixon was running for Governor of California. It started when a newspaper first broke the story that Richard Nixon's brother, Donald, had received an unsecured $205,000 loan from Hughes Tool Company, owned by Howard Hughes. Tuck thought it was a great story, but the national press was not talking about it. So Tuck decided to fix that.
“'I've never had a job, and it's too late now.”
At a stop in Los Angeles' small Chinatown, Vice President  Nixon (and his brother Donald) arrived to find the backdrop was a large hand painted sign that was assumed to read in Chinese characters “Welcome”.  But as Richard began speaking, an elderly Chinese dignitary whispered to Donald that the sign actually said, “What about the Hughes Loan?” Dick Tuck had, of course, paid for the substitution, although how he got up it put at the rally was never explained. In any case, Donald Nixon abruptly bolted from his seat and ripped the sign to shreds, in full view of the news cameras. Now the national press had to explain the details of the loan. Nixon famously lost that election, and retired from politics, grousing to the press, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." So it was understandable that Nixon pointed out Dick Tuck and ordered his staff, “Keep that man away from me.”
''I always used to hate the word 'prank'.”
In the 1960 Presidential election, the turning point was the televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon. The morning after the first debate, the pundits were obsessed with who had won, and whether Nixon looked like he needed a shave. Then a woman wearing Nixon buttons embraced Nixon as he stepped off an airplane. She loudly exclaimed, “Don't worry, son! He beat you last night, but you'll get him next time.” She, of course worked for Dick Tuck. 
In explaining how his pranks differed from those of the Republicans who followed him - Donald Segretti for Nixon, Lee Atwater for Bush Sr., and Karl Rove for Bush Jr - Tuck explained, “It's just the difference between altering fortune cookies to make a candidate look funny and altering State Department cables to make it look as if a former President were a murderer.” The fortune cookie line referred to 1958, when Dick Tuck was working for California Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Pat Brown (Governor Jerry Brown's father), running against Republican Senator William Knowland. At a fund-raising dinner for Knowland, Tuck managed to have all the fortunes in the fortune cookies read, “Knowland for Premier of Formosa”.  It was a prank, not meant to disenfranchise voters, smear a candidate, or to lock conservatives out of the electoral process. And damn it, it was funny.
“What kind of a person would answer a pollster's questions? And tell the truth yet?”
In 1966 Dick Tuck staged a homage to Richard Nixon, by running himself for a seat in the California State Senate. He made that announcement from Glendale's sprawling Forest Lawn Cemetery, explaining to curious reporters that just because people had died, did not mean they had lost their right to vote.  His campaign slogan was, “The Job Needs Tuck, Tuck Needs the Job.” Richard Nixon immediately sent Tuck a congratulatory telegram, and offered to campaign for him. Tuck responded by inviting Nixon to a debate, and even offered to shave for it. On election night, Dick Tuck fell behind early, but urged the press to “wait until the dead vote comes in.” The dead vote never showed up, and when it was clear Tuck had come in third out of field of eight Democrats, Tuck held a Nixonian press conference, telling the cameras, “The people have spoken. The bastards.” It proved to be the most famous thing Dick Tuck ever said.
On Ronald Reagan: “Anybody who takes off the month of August can't be all bad.''
In 1967, Tuck (above) went to Gary, Indiana, to run the mayoral campaign of Richard Hatcher. The local political machine had a history of stealing elections by sabotaging voting machines, but Dick Tuck solved that problem in typical Dick Tuck fashion. He formed a flying squad of teenage pin ball enthusiasts, and trained them to repair the voting machines. The instant one broke, a teenager showed up to get it running again. Richard Hatcher became the first African-American mayor of a major American city.
“I think air conditioning ruined Washington. Before it, during those muggy summers, everybody went home.”
In 1968, Dick Tuck became an adviser on Senator Robert Kennedy's Presidential campaign, and was occasionally seen walking Freckles, the Kennedy's English Spaniel (above). Teased by reporters, Tuck responded, “To you, this is just a dog, but to me it's an ambassadorship.” But on that fateful night of 6 June,  Dick Tuck was just behind Senator Kennedy when he was shot, and tended to the dying candidate.
"I'm leaving politics and going into entertainment. Maybe I'm not changing--maybe politics is changing. It's not the entertainment that it once was.”
Later in 1968, the Nixon Presidential campaign in New York City received an order for several thousand buttons which repeated the phrase, “Nixon's The One”, in everything from Chinese, to Italian, Gaelic, Hebrew, and even Lithuanian. They were to be handed out at various ethnic rallies in the city. But so paranoid had Nixon become about the antics of Dick Tuck, that they were destroyed, just in case he had gotten to them and changed the wording. (He had not.) It was later alleged that Dick Tuck hired pregnant women to wander about at Nixon rallies wearing “Nixon's the One”buttons, but that may just be another legend. However it is clear that Nixon had begun to believe those legends, often lecturing his staff about  the pranks Dick Tuck had or supposedly had, pulled on the Nixon campaign. Nixon began haranguing his staff, “Dick Tuck did that to me. Let's get out what Dick Tuck did!"
“I couldn’t exist in this environment. The problem is there will be no surprises. And there aren’t any independents anymore.”
Dick Tuck's name can be heard repeatedly on the Watergate tapes, always spoken of the way Batman must speak of The Joker, during down times in the Bat Cave. On 13 March, 1973, Nixon can be heard on the Watergate tapes complaining about the ineffectualness of his own operative: “Shows what a master Dick Tuck is ... (Donald) Segretti's hasn't been a bit similar.” Later in 1973, Nixon Chief of Staff H.R. (Bob) Halderman (below, left), spotted Dick Tuck in the hall during a break in the Senate Select Committee hearings on Watergate. He approached the Democratic leprechaun and accused him, “You started all of this.” To which Dick Tuck responded, “Yea, Bob. But you guys ran it into the ground.”
“The people have spoken. The bastards.”
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Thursday, September 22, 2016


I have a mystery story for you, and it begins one October morning in 1954, when the agricultural reporter for the Cuero Record, Ken Roland Towery, was making his morning rounds of the DeWitt County Courthouse (above).  Each day Ken stopped in the offices of county officials, to see if anything newsworthy might be going on.  Poking his head into the district clerk's office, he asked the secretary if anything was up. She replied no, but then she asked him a question. “Ken, what was going on out at the Country Club last night?” When Ken said he hadn't heard anything, she explained, “Oh, they had a big meeting out there, I understand.” And thus began a scandal that would bring down a three term Texas Governor.
Ken Towery had already led an unusual life. After joining the army in 1940 (above), he arrived in the Philippines just in time to be first wounded, and then in March of 1942, made a Japanese prisoner. He spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Korea, and did not get back to Texas until 1946. Under the G.I. bill he studied chemistry, but he had contracted tuberculous in Korea he had to drop out. He took a job working for his hometown newspaper, the Cuero Record. The sleepy south Texas county seat (pronounced Quair-oh, Spanish for “rawhide”) stood at the junction of three highways, and along the “Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific Railway”. The major business in the rolling countryside was raising cows, chickens and turkeys. And the major business in town was slaughtering them or shipping them elsewhere for slaughter – that and county government. So usually, nothing much happened in Cuero.
But when the secretary described the Country Club meeting to Ken that October morning, she used a few racial epithets, because in Texas in 1954, African Americans and Mexican Americans were usually allowed in the Country Club (above) only as servants. Ken returned to the paper and asked Elvin Wright, an African American press operator, if he could check with his neighbors about the meeting. A week later Wright told him, “All I know is they had a meeting out there and they talked land, they talked about a lot of land.”
That rang a bell with Ken. A few months earlier a local farmer named Webber had approached Ken with a letter on blue paper one his hired hands had received from the Veterans Land Board. The man wanted to know what the letter meant. Webber explained, “It looks like you bought some land somewhere”.  But the man insisted, “I ain't bought no land.” Those two curious events, an illiterate man who had not bought land, and a racially mixed meeting in an area where, in Ken's words, “White people just don't set up big parties for colored field hands”, was enough to send the reporter looking for Shorty Robinson, the black custodian for the brand new Country Club. Shorty explained that two club members, T. J. McLarty and a Notary Republic named Ledbetter, had paid him ten dollars for every black veteran he had rounded up for the meeting with the Veteran's Land board.
The Veteran's Land Board was the brainchild of “General” Bascom Giles (above), eight term elected commissioner of the General Land Office in Austin, Texas. The land board had been approved by the voters in November of 1946. Under Giles' plan, the state issued $75 million in bonds. That money was then used to offer 40 year, 3% interest rate loans of up to $7,500 for each veteran applicant. With just 5% down, they could now purchase up to 20 acres of land. Running the program was Giles, with oversight supposedly provided by three term Governor Alan Shivers and Attorney General John Ben Shepperd.  In 1951, because of rising land prices, an amendment allowed two or more veterans to jointly purchase a tract, which they were allowed to later subdivide and resell.  Ken Towery now headed off to Austin, to speak to Bascom Giles.
At first Ken was told “The General” might not even be in that afternoon. So Ken told the secretary that he was from Cuero, and wanted to talk about the blue letter received by Farmer William's employee. Within 20 minutes Bascom Giles (above) was warmly welcoming the reporter into his office. Giles began by insisting no irregularities had occurred in the program in DeWitt county, and yet blamed any mistakes on an appraiser who had already been fired. But, insisted Giles, he had checked the application in question, it had been signed by the farmhand, and any accusation of fraud was just “politics”.  Ken left after the ten minute meeting,  wondering why Giles was defending himself against accusations which Ken had not made.
Back in Ceuro, Ken confided his concerns to DeWitt County Attorney Wiley Cheatham. Wiley revealed he been investigating the Land Board since the previous August, when “ veterans started trickling in, complaining that they hadn't bought any land, wanting to know what the blue slips were, were there payments to be made. Some of them had pink slips...delinquent notices.” Wiley added he had heard of similar problems in at least six other counties.
Wiley asked Ken to hold the story for a few days, while he drove the 94 miles up highway 183 to Austin. On Friday, 5 November, 1954,  Cheatham informed Ken he had received no cooperation from the Land Board, and to go ahead with the story.  Two weeks later, in the Sunday, 14 November, 1954 edition of the Cuero Record,  Ken Towery broke the story of the Veteran's Land Board fraud.
The scam he laid out worked as follows: speculators like T. J. McLarty first obtained options on tracts of land at standard market prices.  Then, at events like the sales pitch at the Cuero Country Club, they fooled minority veterans into signing authorizations to act as their agents.  The speculators then bribed employees of the Land Board (including Giles) to provide highly inflated appraisals on the properties they held options on. Finally, in the veterans' names, the speculators obtained the 3% loans from the Veterans Land Board to purchase the property at the inflated price. They made only the 5% down payment at the option price, and pocketed the rest of the loan, leaving the veterans with the payments and ruined credit.
Two years later a Texas state Senate report would say, “The plan . . . constituted a highly reprehensible practice, especially in view of the 'spread' between the original purchase price paid by the 'promoters' and the appraised price paid by the Veterans Land Board, resulting in unconscionable and shocking profits . . . without risk and with only token expense to them and the 'rooking' of the veteran-purchaser.”  The scam proved so profitable the speculators could even afford to pay many barely literate veterans up to a hundred dollars for their signatures. One veteran admitted, “They said they'd give me a new set of tires for my car and so I signed up.”
The scandal did not explode instantly. In fact, Bascom Giles had just been elected to his ninth term as Land Office Commissioner.  But thanks to Ken Towerly's (above) work, investigations which had already begun in seven counties began producing headlines of their own. The State Attorney General, John Ben Shepperd, who had rarely attended meetings of the Veterans Land Board, quickly opened his own investigation, as did that other absentee board member, Governor Alan Shivers. Twenty-one people were indicted by grand juries.  Early the following March  Bascom Giles was indicted for conspiracy to steal $83,000 (nearly $600,000 in present day). He was the first Texas state officer convicted for crimes committed while in office. He was sentenced to six years. Fines and civil suits by the state collected all but $3,000 of the money he stole.
When it was all over the State Auditor reported that over $3.5 million ($25 million today) had been stolen, defrauding 591 veterans and 39 land owners. Threatened with jail time, most of those indicted had cut deals, buying back the land from the veterans at the inflated price the crooks had been paid, and re-embursing the land board. So the state of Texas got most of their money back, and only two of the crooks did any substantial time behind bars. But one of those two was T.J.McLarty, of tiny Cuero. 
Governor Shivers (above) was never directly implicated in any involvement in the Veterans' Land Board scandal, but because of his shoddy oversight,  his reputation was so damaged that he did not run for re-election, and left politics. His greatest political claim to fame was that in 1952, as a conservative Democrat, he had delivered Texas to Republican Presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower.  After politics, he served as a regent for the University of Texas, and died of a heart attack in January of 1985.
In 1955 Ken Towerly (above) won the Pulitzer Prize,  and the Associated Press sent him a check for $4.00, for reprinting his story nationwide.  He later interviewed Bascom Giles in the state penitentiary at Huntsville.  In his own interview 60 years later, Ken recalled, “He had long stories, of course, like all crooks do...everybody out there is doing it, I don’t know why they picked on me....And I told Bascom...“If you know of anything,  well just name them”...And he said, “Oh, no, it wouldn’t do any good.,,They're all doing it”  After his release in 1958, Bascom Giles moved to Venice Florida, where he died in a car accident, in 1993.
And Ken went into politics. He never ran for public office, but he did work on the staff of Texas Republican Senator John Towers. As of May, 2016, he was still enjoying his unusual life
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016


I should point out that when Martin Van Buren (above) was dumped into an Indiana hog wallow, ruining a very expensive pair of pearl gray trousers and coating his elegant frock coat with everything a happy swine leaves behind in a porcine sauna, it wasn't entirely fair. Of course “The Red Fox of Kinderhook” was far too crafty a politician to admit he had been humiliated. That would just draw more attention to his humiliation. As the venomous Virginia politician John Randolph observed, Martin Van Buren always “rowed with muffled oars.” But everybody knew this traffic accident had been staged as payback for Van Buren's insult to Hoosiers. What goes around comes around. And it was useless to point out that the insult to Hoosiers had mostly come from Van Buren's predecessor, the still popular Andrew Jackson.
Even the frail shadow of federal authority which existed in 1828 was too much for President Andrew Jackson. Over his two terms, he did his very best to weaken the Federal government, in all its endeavors except the ones he approved of. The ideology that argues against "big government" is still powerful in American politics today. Jackson vetoed a new charter for the National Bank - precursor of the Federal Reserve - which left the entire banking system unregulated. He streamlined the sale of public lands, which energized the speculators who were overcharging the yeoman farmers. He cut entire programs out of the Federal budget, and insisted the states take over many others. And at the same time he backed the Seminole Indian nation into a war.
But it was not until three months after Van Buren's inauguration in March of 1837 that these pigeons came home to roost. The massive real estate bubble suddenly popped. Over half of the nation's unregulated banks suddenly failed. And by January of 1838 half a million Americans were unemployed. Or to put it more simply, suddenly it was prom night and Martin Van Buren was Carrie. And like Carrie, Van Buren then made things worse by slashing out at everything in sight. Oh, he continued the unending expensive Seminole war. But he insisted on killing Federal funding for the National Road, which had reduced mail time between Washington and Indianapolis from several months to less than a week. Van Buren was so doctrinaire he even sold off the construction workers' picks and shovels. And for frontier farmers trying to get their produce to market, that made any economic recovery that much harder.
See, once across the Ohio border, the $7,000 a mile construction costs for the National Road was supposed to be supplied by land sales. But when the real estate bubble popped in 1837, that funding evaporated. Maintenance for the 600 mile road was paid for by the tolls of four to twelve cents (the equivalent of $2.50 today) for each ten mile long section, paid by the 200 wagons, horseback riders, farmers and herds of livestock that used each section of the road every day. But after 1837 that $36,000 a year (almost a million dollars today) had to do double duty, finishing the road and providing maintenance for the road already finished.  And it was not enough money.
Particularly in Indiana, there were long sections beyond the two urban centers, ((Indianapolis and Richmond) where farmers using the road to drive their livestock to market faced forests of 14 inch high tree stumps. These provided clearance for the farmers' and emigrants' high riding Conestoga wagons, but between the stumps, the road bed was in such bad shape that constant repairs to their equipment bankrupted many of the 200 stagecoach lines trying to survive in Indiana. And every frontier farmer and businessman knew exactly who was to blame for all of this –“President Martin Van Ruin”.  As a result, in the election of 1840, in Hendricks County, (just southwest of Indianapolis), and along the National Road, Van Buren received 651 votes, while Whig candidate William Henry Harrison received 1,189 votes. Nationwide, Van Buren carried just 7 of the 26 states.
Normally this Hoosier hostility would not have mattered much, but just six months after taking office, the new President Harrison died of a pneumonia, and all previous assumptions had to be rethought . The Whigs had picked John Tyler as Vice President, mostly to get rid of him. Now, disastrously, he was the head of their party. The overjoyed Democrats began referring to Tyler as “His Accidency.” The adroit and dapper Martin Van Buren began thinking he could avenge his defeat and take the road back to the White House in 1844. All he needed was a cunning plan, which he just happened to have. 
In February of 1842, Van Buren (above) journeyed to Nashville, Tennessee, for an extended visit with his mentor, Andrew Jackson, hoping some of Old Hickory’s popularity would rub off on him. It did not. Heading north, Van Buren then set off for a tour of the frontier states. He was well received in Kentucky, and the pro-slavery areas around Cincinnati, Ohio, but the closer he got to Indiana the more reserved the crowds became.
In early June he was met at the Indiana border by 200 loyal Democrats. Van Buren gave them a speech at Sloan's Brick Stage House on Main Street (the National Road) in Richmond, Indiana. But the vast majority of the local Quakers remained skeptical. And while Van Buren was speaking, noted the Richmond Palladium newspaper, “...a mysterious chap partially sawed the underside of the double tree crossbar of the that it would snap on the first hard pull…”
The next morning the stagecoach and its distinguished passenger headed for Indianapolis, the “Capital in the Woods”. But just two miles outside of Richmond, while bouncing over ruts and stumps, the carriage splashed into a great deep mud hole. And when the horses were whipped to yank the carriage out, the weakened cross brace snapped. Dressed in his silk finery, Martin Van Buren was forced to disembark into the foul waters and wade to shore.
There was no indication of any further sabotage on Van Buren's 74 mile ride across the mostly open prairie, which took the better part of three days because of the road's condition. And the ex-President and candidate made it to the Hoosier capital in time to keep his appointments and make his speeches over the weekend of June 9-10. He took two more days to make political contacts, shaking hands and trading confidences, before, on Wednesday, June 13, he boarded yet another mail coach for the 75 mile journey to Illinois. But just six miles down the road, Van Buren had to pass through another Quaker bastion, this one called Plainfield, Indiana.
The town earned its name from the “plain folk” who had laid out the town ten years earlier on the east bank of White Lick Creek. This Henricks county town was straddled by the National Road, which provided Plainfield's livelihood. Less than a quarter mile up Main Street from the  ford over the "crick", amidst a stand of Elms, the Quakers had built a camp ground and a meeting house. And here, that Wednesday morning, were gathered several hundred Democrats and Wigs (mostly Quakers in their “Sunday, go to meeting clothes”), to see the once and maybe future President ride past. The crowd may have even been increased because the driver of this particular leg of the President's journey was a local boy, twenty-something Mason Wright. Soon, the crowd heard the blast of the horn from Mason's lips, warning of the VIP's bouncing approach down the gentle half mile slope toward White Lick Creek.
The disaster occurred abruptly. The coach rushed into view, with Van Buren's arm waving out of the coach's open window, while Teamster Wright whipped the horses to move faster. Faster? Shouldn't he be slowing down to let people get a view of the President?  And then, just as the carriage came abreast of the center of the campground, the coach was forced to veer to the right to avoid a large "hog waller" mud hole in the very center of the dilapidated National Road. And as if  it had been planned, the right front wheel bounced over the hard knuckle of an exposed bare elm root. The carriage teetered for an instant until the rear wheel clipped the same root. The teetering coach then careened past the point of no return.  Mason Wright leaped free while the coach crashed heavily onto its side into the very center of the smelly, sticky, hot black hog waller. Martin Van Buren had been dumped upon.
A Springfield Illinois newspaper would note a few days later, “He was always opposed to that road, but we were not aware that the road held a grudge against him!” Wrote a more bitter Wig newspaper, “the only free soil of which Van Buren had knowledge (of) was the dirt he scraped from his person at Plainfield.”  The driver and witnesses blamed the Elm (above), which could not defend itself. Van Buren was uninjured, but once again had to extricate himself from his injured coach. After pouring the mud and other unidentified muck from his boots, Van Buren made his way on foot further west along the National Road to Fisher’s Tavern, at what is now 106 E. Main Street. There, Mrs. Fisher helped the President clean up his pants and coat, and wash the mud from his wide brimmed hat.
Back at the campground. the honest Quakers helped to right the stage, re-attach the horses, and carefully and respectfully deliver the coach to Fishers to collect the President. But it is hard to believe that, as Mr. Van Buren splashed across White Lick "crick" many of those Quakers were not smiling with the sly satisfaction of a job well done. 
A few days later Teamster Mason Wright was awarded a $5 silk hat, although it was never explicitly stated it was for his skill in staging a stage crash - call it political slapstick. But the tree who's root had provided the fulcrum for the prank would forever more be known as the Van Buren Elm.  In 1916 (above) the Daughters of the American Revolution even gave the tree a wooden plaque of its own.
But the hard winter of 1926 brought the Van Buren Elm down, and a local doctor lamented, “The many friends of the old historic tree are loath to have it removed from their midst.”
Van Buren (above) made it safely to Illinois without further accidents. He was  met a few miles outside of Springfield by a small delegation of legislators, including the young Abraham Lincoln. But Mr. Van Buren was never elected to public office again. The judgement of Hoosiers stood firm.
The Quakers' Meeting House still stands among the stand of Elms at 256 East Main Street (corner of Vine) in Plainfield.  After the original Van Buren Elm fell, a replacement was planted, and in memory, the old tree received a bronze plaque (above).  This inspired a local grade school to be named for the dapper Democrat who stumbled in their town, and a street was named after him as well. But in Plainfield the National Road (now U.S. Route 40), is still called Main Street. That is true of many Midwestern towns bisected by the National Road. They truly were America's Main Street. And Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson had both been wrong about that. But it was Van Buren who took the fall.
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