Unflattering Glimpses of the Georgia Legislature, 2012 and 1817

[Note:A huge sigh of relief can be heard all round the greater Atlanta area; wives and daughters are once again permitted to leave their homes unaccompanied by a heavily armed escort; the family silver has been retrieved from its hiding place and restored to the place of honor in the dining room display cabinet.  Yes, friends, the Georgia legislature has finally packed up our troubles in its ol’ kit bag and hit the road for home, after doing as much damage to the state, its citizens, and its economy as was humanly possible, at least during this legislative session.  (Not as much damage as they perhaps originally intended, of course, but still. . . .)

Now, in fairness, not everyone was happy to see our solons decamp:  they will be sorely missed by the National Rifle Association, Georgia Right to Life, some elements of our many-sided “tea party” movement, and more lobbyists than you can shake a stick at.  “We’re Number 50!  We’re Number 50!”–in effective ethics in government laws, that is, according to a recent survey.  To which our legislative “leaders” replied by either, a) attacking the group that took the survey; or, b) repeating their mantra, “Our current ethics laws are quite sufficient, no matter what anyone thinks, thank you very much. . . .”

To help speed these dedicated public servants on their way (and to confirm once more the adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”), here’s a glimpse of a group of their predecessors, offered by a traveler in Georgia 195 years ago.  Peter A. Remsen, a New Yorker on his way to Alabama, visited Milledgeville on December 20-21, 1817, just as the legislative session was winding down, and recorded his impressions.]

The Legislature of this State closed its sitting on the morning of the 20th inst.  I did not visit the state house. Some 20 boarders [who were members of the legislature] put up at the house we stoped [sic] at.  But alas!  What would New Yorkers say to see them [?]  I certainly do not hesitate to say that their conduct was beneath that of any crew of sailors that was ever seen.  Cursing, quarrelling, hollowing [sic], drinking, getting drunk.  Disputing landlords [sic] bill.  Drunken men hugging sober ones.  Illiterate, mean appearances, readiness for rasseling [sic] etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc..  On the night of the 18th inst. (a thing at the close of all their meetings) the Governor [William Rabun] at the head, with a horse visited all boarding houses of members [of the legislature].  Draged [sic] them out of bed.  Marched the square and streets, and from report the noise excelled that of wild beasts.  Its [sic] well the North knows not what the South does.  Vice Versa.  [SOURCE:  William B. Hesseltine and Larry Gara, eds., “Across Georgia and Into Alabama, 1817-1818,” GHQ 37 (1953), 332]

* * * * * *

For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

About georgelamplugh

I retired in 2010 after nearly four decades of teaching History at the "prep school" level with a PhD. My new "job" was to finish the book manuscript I'd been working on, in summers only, since 1996. As things turned out, not only did I complete that book, but I also put together a collection of my essays--published and unpublished--on Georgia history. Both volumes were published in the summer of 2015. I continue to work on other writing projects, including a collection of essays on the Blues and, of course, my blog.
This entry was posted in American History, Current Events, Georgia History, History, Research, Southern (Georgia) History, Southern History. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Unflattering Glimpses of the Georgia Legislature, 2012 and 1817

  1. admiral17 says:

    Ah, yes, but remember, where are we in terms of infant mortality rates? Gun ownership? Can’t we get them back for a better “Stand Your Ground Law” than Florida has? Only last night I was physically threatened by a shadow outside my driveway. Alas, my “iron” was in Florida.

    • It’s too late to bring ’em back now, but I feel your pain at their unfinished agenda. If it’s any help, you could always try the decades-old mantra of Cubs fans, “Wait ’til next year. . . .”

  2. One of the most important jobs for historicans is to remind us that the good old days were never that good, and most often not so good as we have now. For example, the legislature today has air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and cell phones.

    • And in the “good ol’ days” of 1817, all Georgians could “pack heat” anywhere they wished; they didn’t need no dang “stand your ground” laws, no way, no how. Ah, progress. . . .

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