In a very interesting post about political power and economic equality, William Hogeland recounts some uncivil exchanges between Thomas Paine and John Adams:
Here’s John Adams on Thomas Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense”: “What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.” Then comes Paine on Adams: “John was not born for immortality.”
Paine and Adams may have been alone among the founders for having literary styles adequate to their mutual disregard. “The spissitude [sic!] of the black liquor which is spread in such quantities by this writer,” Adams wrote of Paine, “prevents its daubing.” Paine: “Some people talk of impeaching John Adams, but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of.”
Funny as hell, though.
I gotta say, in those days they took more time to finely craft their insults, to the point where they’re artistic.
I’m reminded of my idol, Thomas Henry Huxley, who, upon hearing that his old creationist enemy Bishop Wilbeforce had a fatal riding accident, said “At last the good bishop’s brain has made contact with reality, and the results killed him.”
I want to start a word of the day calendar with olde-timey insults. Crapulous would fill at least one date, but I’d be tempted to throw it in every 3 or 4 months in the hopes it would regain usage today. Man, that Sarah Palin is one crapulous candidate!