Take about a handful of 1% rich men, white if you have them; mash them into a puree of gerrymandered districts with very little conscience toward citizenry and constituents; season this with copious, unlimited “Greens”; toss this mixture to the scattered, bought and sold media labeled “Scrutiny”; gently stir so as not to cause excitement amongst the knavish electorate – careful – one drop can become gruesomely fermented; wait through a 24 hour election cycle and pull your masterpiece from the oven; if not entirely corrupted, repeat by adding more “greens”…

Ah, satire – the lubricant to point away at what may ail a said society. And though I penned the craftiness of what’s above, I cannot take full credit. There’s a bit of history here (isn’t there always). You see, I borrowed, and heavily from the eighteenth century where gripes of electioneering corruption abounded. I have marveled, of late, at the cliché riddled maxim that history, on occasion, repeats itself. And with recent court decisions from the United States Supreme Court, I simply cannot help myself in drawing parallels. Forgive me.

A major impetus for colonial Americans to shirk the British Empire – a small revolution saw to this success – was the inherent corruption of British politics. Some of us may recall the slogan of those days, “No taxation without representation.” Colonialists were miffed as they couldn’t buy an MP (Member of Parliament), not with being over 3,000 miles away from the London Metropole; not with being at the wrong end of a cooked mercantile economic system.

But colonialists were not the only ones upset with the apparent crookedness of what Britons then called ‘indoor” politics. There existed a general malaise throughout most of Great Britain that Parliament, the House of Commons in particular, was becoming infected. As the eighteenth century went forward in time, the House that was to represent the common guy became increasingly occupied by men with titles: lord this, or viscount that, you get the picture. The election of 1754 certainly bore this out as oligarchs and the sons of plutocrats swept into office in unprecedented numbers. The satire erupted. The power of the press took on Britain’s election system with often hilarious results. The above self-penned satire, in fact, is modeled after a piece of satire that appeared in a provincial newspaper: Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, 13 July 1754:

A Receipt to make a M____ of P____ [Member of Parliament]

Take an Handful of Freeholders, mix them with a large Quantity of Copyholders, Leaseholders, and Derbyholders; a very little Conscience, not more than nineteen Grains; season them with Sallery, Penny-Royal, Adders-Tongue, and right Exeter Mugwort, to your Taste; digest them in a Spirit of Scrutiny unrestricted, commonly called Proof Spirit, three and twenty Days; top with this Mixture, the Ears and Eyes, and Tickle the Palms of the R___g O____r for three days together, ‘till they are all BLACK. If a Fermentation be found necessary, Green Flags will have a good Effect; but nothing is so infallible as Salt Petre, Brimstone and Charcoal duly mix’d and applied in sufficient Quantities to the part affected.

Oh, so droll. Freeholders, Copyholders, Leaseholders and Derbyholders are those who made rents off of real property or imagined [stocks were distrusted in those days]. References to “Sallary,” or money; “Penny-Royal” or the king’s money in the form of sinecure; “Adders-Tongue,” or men in the form of snakes – all digested in a “Spirit of Scrutiny unrestricted” is actually alcohol, or as the article states: “Proof Spirit.” The inferring joke being that not much scrutiny goes on when one drinks in abandon. Who’s drinking? Those that tote the “Green Flags,” a politically charged reference to levellers, or the common people, who fought alongside Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. It’s also a swipe at the practice of “hustings,” the throwing of outdoor politicking where the candidate buys off the non-voting public (which in eighteenth-century England was about 98% of the population, if not 99) with a huge outdoor bash replete with beef, beer, and possibly gin. And last, if those common folks do not find that the hustings have left them in good effect, why a dose of “Salt Petre, Brimstone and Charcoal duly mix’d” i.e, gunpowder, “applied in sufficient Quantities” will keep those non-electorates from scrutinizing the elections too closely.

Raucous British hustings can be seen here in William Hogarth’s 1755 print. The candidate, hoisted in a chair by a mob, heads to the polls to vote.

Raucous British hustings can be seen here in William Hogarth’s 1755 print. The candidate, hoisted in a chair by a mob, heads to the polls to vote.

But back to the John Roberts court and its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case. The obsession to protect the free speech of money certainly appears to set up what colonial Americans rebelled against – a system where privileges and titles prevailed at the expense of the rest of the nation.

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