Hacking, Cooping, Ratfucking and a Quasi War

When it comes to the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic Party the question is not did the Russians hack the Democratic Party during the election. The real question is more why wouldn’t they hack.

The County Election, 1852 by George Caleb Bingham

Disrupting elections is an American tradition. Why have states been babbling on about voter fraud and passing laws for tougher voter identification? Candidates and their backers have been trying to game the outcome of elections in this country since the first wagon loaded with barrels of hard apple cider was served up gratis for showing up at the polls. There was nothing wrong with Election Day liquor so long as it was not served up by a foreign power.

In the 1840s Baltimore political gangs took election canvassing to newer heights that went beyond stealing election ballots, bribing judges and outright voter intimidation. There was the practice called “cooping.”  “Potential voters” were swept up and steered to a local tavern where they were sequestered and plied with booze until Election Day.  Then they were paraded from one polling place to another polling place to vote.  In some cases the inebriated sots where taken back for a quick change of clothes as a change of identity so they could vote again thus giving true meaning to voting early and often.

The tale to tell is what happened to Poe on Election Day.

There has been speculation that the mysterious death of America’s first detective writer, Edgar Allan Poe, was shrouded in such voter fraud.  Four days before his death Poe was found on Election Day, in what was believed to be a drunken state, outside of Ryan’s 4th Ward Poll watering hole, a tavern known as Gunner’s Hall.  Some Poephiles believe Poe, who was already in poor health, was dragooned into one of these gang-related Election Day cooping efforts.  Once he had fulfilled his civic duty he was cast out on to the street. But these efforts, although coordinated to affect the election’s outcome, were not perpetuated through a foreign power.


Most American high-schoolers are familiar with the New York City machine The Tweed Ring. William Tweed managed to take control of New York City politics. It was estimated in 1877 that Tweed had stolen between $25 million to $45 million from New York City.  The “Boss” ran a Big City Machine that controlled the loyalty of the voters through graft, jobs, and city projects.

Votes go up graft comes down.

Just about every big city has had some sort of machine.  Kansas City had Thomas Pendergast.  Pendergast was the Chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Party. In the latter half of 1920s and through the ‘30s he was able to get friendly politicians elected to office. In fact one friend made it as far as the US Senate and then on to the Oval Office: Harry Truman.  Before his ascent to the presidency Truman was known as the Senator from the State of Pendergast. But both Tweed and Pendergast’s penchant for skirting the law led to convictions.  Tweed was convicted on 204 counts of corruption and Pendergast for income tax evasion. Both served time.

In more recent times we can see that the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton was close. Clinton received around two million more popular votes than her opponent.  However, her margin of popular vote was a Whopper with fries compared to John F. Kennedy’s 1960 victory.  Richard Nixon lost the popular vote to John Kennedy by a .17% margin or just fewer than 114,000 votes. In most states the margins were as thick as a spider’s web. After the election there was speculation that the Cook Country Democratic boss, Richard Daley, served up the presidency to Kennedy with an overwhelming Democratic vote tally.

Does the name Donald Segretti ring a bell, probably not?  He was one of many of President Richard Nixon’s dirty tricksters – or a ratfucker. In a time before hacking and the social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook and email, dirty tricksters would use the letter heads of political opponents. Once the letter head was acquired then fraudulent statements or “fake news” could be circulated. There were various fake letters circulated from one Democrat accusing another Democratic candidate of having sexual affairs and children with teenagers to being mentally unbalanced. This was just the beginning of the Watergate scandal that would soon turn the word “gate” into a suffix for any major scandal. Most recently Deflategate where New England Patriot quarterback was accused of tampering with the air pressure in footballs used in a championship game.


The most famous of these letters was the Canuck Letter.  This was a forged letter from the Nixon Campaign that appeared in the Manchester Union Leader newspaper two weeks before the New Hampshire presidential primary election.  The letter attributed disparaging remarks about French-Canadians to Democratic candidate Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine. The letter and the ensuing events, with Muskie accused of crying during a speech before the Manchester Union Leader building in a driving snow storm, led some to believe that the letter sunk Muskie’s hopes for a run for the presidency in 1972.


There was at least one time when foreign diplomats openly tried to influence American public opinion. It was in the turbulent times of the new republic after the Revolutionary War.  Events in France led to the Reign of Terror and the beheading of Louis XVI and his wife.  Before long the newly formed French Republic was at war with every European

Pierre Adet

monarchy – and urging its fellow republic, the United States, to join in.  France, using the 1778 Treaty of Alliance as leverage, tried to enlist American support for France’s war against Great Britain. French diplomats like Edmond Genet and Pierre Adet began to outfit privateers in American ports to attack British shipping. They tried to enlist Americans to their cause to invade Spanish territories and even possibly Canada.


Prior to the 1796 election Adet wrote several letters trying to influence public opinion. In one letter he indicated that if Thomas Jefferson was not elected president there could be war with France. He also leaked terms of the recently negotiated Jay treaty with Great Britain that was up for ratification in the Senate and tried to influence the Senate’s vote. In one letter Adet said that this treaty indicated that America was no longer a neutral country.

President Washington was trying to guide the young country to neutral waters despite the strong sentiments for France, particularly among members of Jefferson’s newly founded Republican Party.  This was a time of sharp partisan politics as Federalists and Alexander Hamilton leaned towards England. The two parties clashed in Congress over many issues.


Despite Adet’s meddling, John Adams won the 1796 election and America eventually fought an undeclared war called the Quasi War with France.  It was also a time when Federalists in Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Act gave the government new powers to deport foreigners.  It also increased the residency requirements.  Immigrants were eligible to vote after five years of residency but the new law increased residency  for new immigrants to 14 years.

The Sedition Act was aimed more at budding growth of partisan newspapers, particularly Republican newspapers.  The Act basically prohibited public opposition to the government. Those who “write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government could  and did face fines and imprisonment.  More than 20 Republican editors of newspapers were arrested with some being jailed.  The law was later repealed during Jefferson’s first administration.


Getting back to Russian hacking, why not? American elections are an invitation for influence peddling and meddling, mudslinging, and misstatements. Now some 400 pound man in New Jersey can affect the presidency from his bed, only getting up for a bag of Doritos and a Mountain Dew.


See All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward https://books.google.com/books?id=6MYYI_LNfWsC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=canuck+letter&source=bl&ots=10tTA_hwCe&sig=jUax5YntQMQI0uo-AE-zk0nHgls&hl=en&sa=X&sqi=2&pjf=1&ved=0ahUKEwiG-_SS0LDRAhVGWCYKHd1cA70Q6AEIeTAT#v=onepage&q=canuck%20letter&f=false






2 thoughts on “Hacking, Cooping, Ratfucking and a Quasi War

  1. Juliet Bravo January 11, 2017 / 8:52 pm

    Just goes to show there’s nothing new under the sun–the “how” may change but not the “what.”


    • mystoryorhistory February 1, 2017 / 12:20 am

      It is always great to hear what you have to say Ms Bravo. We should get together for coffee.


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