Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Devil and Daniel Webster

For no good reason at all I read the above named short story yesterday and found it to be very entertaining. Told in classic American “Tall Tale” style the story is about how the famous senator is called upon to defend a hapless farmer against the devil's legal machinations.

First Webster explains that being an American citizen, his client can't be forced into the service of a foreign prince, but the devil explains that he's lived in America since before it's founding and that he's well known in every town. Then Webster asks for a trial by jury - any American jury - and the devil complies. Fiendishly the devil takes it upon himself to pick America's worst historical villains, scoundrels, and turncoats for the judge and jury pool, bringing most back from the dead.

The story got me thinking about who I would pick for my jury of the damned. “The Devil and Daniel Webster” was limited by people who lived at or before Daniel Webster (the story itself was written in 1941 or so) but I wouldn't hold myself to that. Here's my list thus far. I would like to have included some of the 9-11 hijacker but they were here on visa's so they don't count.

  • Benedict Arnold
  • John Wilkes Booth
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest
  • Richard Nixon
  • Oliver North
  • Lee Harvey Oswald
  • Aldrich H. Ames
  • Ann Coulter
  • Timothy McViegh
  • John Walker
  • Ted Kazinski

And the judge would have to be Scalia of course.

I wanted to add an America hating leftist (there has to be at least one I suppose) but since Jane Fonda repented I can't really think of any. Chomsky maybe? I didn't have room for Grover Norquist or George Wallace, but I didn't want to be too politcal. Who's on your jury of the damned? Remember, they have to be or have been American citizens (or have lived in America before the founding of the United States).

Update: Ok, I changed my mind about the judge. Roy Moore would probably be worse than Scalia (though Scalia sets a pretty high bar for badness). In the original story, the judge was judge Hawthorn of the Salem witch trials.

Update: Are you happy now, Matt? I took out the damned ending. Or should I say the ending of the damned?


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