Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 20:25:36 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: "I Would/Had Rather Be Right Than Be President"

At 08:07 PM 11/16/97 -0500, you (Barry Popik) wrote:

This is from The State Gazette (Trenton, NJ), 22 March 1839, pg. 3, col.



His reply was, "I did not send for you to ask what might be the

effects of the proposed movement on my _prospects_, but whether it was


Once politicians get a good line, they usually recycle it to the point of

driving it into the ground -- especially in the pre-media days where they

had an almost completely new fresh audience every time they gave a campaign

speech out on the trail. Clay lost in running for US Pres. in 1824 and 1832,

and would lose a record-setting third time in 1844. I wouldn't surprise me

if you could find it even earlier! -- Maybe 1833 ff., right after the second


Now that you mention it, Barry, 1850 seems pretty late for Hank to have been

coming up with that line for the first time. If 1850 had been the actual

date (six years after his third/final presidential run), it would add a

whole new stretch to the term Treppenwitz ("stairs-joke," what you think of

on the way out of a building that you should have said while you were there

but didn't think of till it was too late).

BTW, how do you find all this stuff in uncatalogued newspaper archives?

What's the ratio of time expended per interesting item found...? At your

leisure of course, and not at the cost of trade secrets.

(If this were Dear Abby, I'd have to say "Sign me: Curious in Staten Island")

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]