Remembering The Cabbie Who Tossed A President Into Pig Poop
1837 was a tough time in America, and in many ways, it was the exact opposite of today. Today, we're staring at inflation; in 1837, people had to deal with deflation. Today, housing prices keep soaring; in 1837, the real estate bubble burst, catastrophically. Today, we've got a president pushing large infrastructure bills, and in 1837, President Martin Van Buren moved to cut infrastructure spending—including spending on the National Road, U.S. 40.
That majorly angered the people of Indiana. Thanks to the real estate crash, they could no longer fund the road themselves. The stumps and holes in the barely paved road meant anyone who drove along it eventually found their carriage falling apart.
In 1840, Van Buren lost his reelection hard. But by 1842, he was gearing up to run again, and he made a trip through Plainfield, Indiana. His local stagecoach driver, Mason Wright, took Van Buren for a ride along U.S. 40. The road was in such disrepair that one spot had now become a pig wallow around an elm tree, and most riders left the road to take a detour around that area. Wright, carrying out a conspiracy hatched by Plainfield residents, stayed on the road, right toward the tree.
The tree's roots tripped the coach. The vehicle overturned—as planned—spilling the ex-president into the pig muck, while Wright himself jumped free and landed cleanly. Van Buren had to walk the remainder of his journey, covered in filth. Mason Wright became a local hero, and the town chipped in to gift him a fancy hat, worth $150 in today's money.
Van Buren did not win his party's nomination for 1844. In 1848, he ran again, this time for a third party, one that sounded appropriate for someone with his experience with all things muddy: the Free Soil Party.
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