Barely literate internet trolls may seem a recent phenomenon but only the medium is new. Ask Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States. As can be imagined, Abe was less than popular with his constituents in the southern states. An expression of the president’s unpopularity can be found in this barely legible item of hate mail, sent to Lincoln by a Mr A G Frick in February 1861. Frick’s spelling, grammar and punctuation appear exactly as written:
Mr Abe Lincoln
if you don’t Resign we are going to put a spider in your dumpling and play the Devil with you you god or mighty god dam sunnde of a bith go to hell and buss my Ass suck my prick and call my Bolics your uncle Dick god dam a fool and goddam Abe Lincoln who would like you goddam you excuse me for using such hard words with you but you need it you are nothing but a goddam Black nigger
Mr A. G. Frick
[PS] Tennessee Missouri Kentucky Virginia N. Carolina and Arkansas is going to secede Glory be to god on high”
The Comstock Act (passed 1873) was a United States federal law that made sending obscene materials through the mail a criminal offence. Under the Comstock provisions, the definition of ‘obscenity’ was very broad. Some of the prosecutions launched by postal authorities involved sexual health material, marriage handbooks, ‘coming of age’ guides, saucy poetry and love letters. Even the most sacred of books was not sacred under the Comstock law. In 1895 John B. Wise of Clay County, Kansas was arrested and charged with sending obscene materials by mail. The material in question was a postcard containing two quotations from the Bible:
“Wise… sent a quotation of scripture by mail to a preacher friend, with whom he was having a scriptural controversy. As the quotation was obscene, the preacher got angry and caused Wise’s arrest for mailing obscene matter. The case is in the Topeka federal court… if the quotation is adjudged obscene [then] then Bible as a whole is unmailable matter.”
Wise’s case went to trial the following year and he was convicted by jury and fined $50. He declared his intention to appeal, however press archives do not contain any mention of this.
In August 1780 Wolfgang Mozart, then aged 24, happened upon his sister Maria Anna’s diary. Pretending to be her, he wrote the following entry:
“About shitting my humble self, an arse, a break, again an arse and finally a nose, in the church, staying at home due to the whistle in the arse, whistle not a bad tune for me in my arse. In the afternoon Katherine stopped by and also Mr Fox-tail, whom I afterwards licked in the arse. O, delicious arse!”
This was not the first time Mozart had written in his sister’s diary without her permission. In May 1775 Maria Anna mentioned attending a concert in the city hall, featuring a female singer. Beneath her entry, Wolfgang scrawled:
In 1494 Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, which effectively divided the rest of the uncolonised world between them. But the treaty only covered the Atlantic hemisphere, so by the 1510s Spanish and Portuguese explorers and colonists were clashing in Indonesia and the Philippines. In 1524 both powers convened more treaty negotiations, this time to divide the other side of the world. These meetings, held in the border towns of Badajoz and Elvas, were attended by some of the most notable diplomats, cartographers, astronomers and mathematicians of the age. Leading the delegation from Lisbon was Diego Lopes de Sequeira, a prominent military leader and a former governor of Portuguese Goa. According to a contemporary report, Lopes and his advisors took a break from the negotiations and went walking along the banks of the Quadiana river. On the Spanish side of the river they saw:
“…a boy who stood keeping his mother’s clothes which she had washed… [The boy] demanded of them whether they were those men who were partitioning the world [on behalf of] the emperor. And as they answered ‘Yea’, he took up his shirt and showed them his bare arse, saying: ‘Come and draw your line through the middle [of this].’ This saying was afterward in every man’s mouth and laughed at in the town of Badajoz.”
The negotiations ended with the Treaty of Zaragoza, which in general terms handed Portugal colonial rights over the Asian mainland, while Spain was given access to islands in the Pacific.
William Cronan was born in Burlington, Vermont in 1838. At the age of 22 he enlisted in the Union Army as a lieutenant and quickly rose to the rank of captain. By early 1862 he was a company commander in the 7th Vermont Infantry. Cronan’s regiment was deployed to Louisiana and saw action in the Battle of Baton Rouge (August 1862). Cronan had been a good organiser but combat seemed to bring out the worst in him. He was sent for court martial for having quarrelled with superior officers, saying of one:
“The colonel can kiss my royal majestic brown military touch-hole.”
Captain Cronan was formally reprimanded but continued to serve. He later returned home to be honorably discharged. According to an obituary in Vermont, he died in August 1910.